An American Abroad

An American Abroad: An Inside Look At How American Consultants Run High-Level Political Campaigns Around the World An IOP Study Group led by Tad Devine

This study group will examine the roles played by American consultants in high-level political campaigns around the world. Since 1993, Tad Devine has worked as a media and political consultant – writing, directing and producing television and radio advertising and working on communications strategy, debate prep and speechwriting – for leading party candidates across four continents. He has worked on ten winning races for President or Prime Minister around the world, and two winning national referendum campaigns outside the U.S., including:

Colombia (’98) Andrés Pastrana - President
Ireland (‘97/’02/’07) Bertie Ahern – Taoiseach (Fianna Fáil)
Ireland (‘02/’09) Nice Treaty II and Lisbon Treaty II
Israel (‘99) Ehud Barak – Prime Minister
Peru (‘01) Alejandro Toledo - President
Bolivia (‘02) Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada - President
Honduras (‘05) Mel Zelaya - President
Ukraine (’07 Prime Minister, ‘10 President) Viktor Yanukovych (Party of Regions)

In addition, Tad has worked for candidates in Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Guyana, and Cambodia.

Participants in this study group will explore the elements of a modern political campaign in the context of foreign elections. Using the races Tad has worked on as our guide, this study group will focus on the real world methods that shape political contests. Participants will have the opportunity to hear from political consultants and party leaders who have been part of campaign teams abroad.

The order of the classes, after the first week, is subject to the availability of the guest speakers.

Session I: Wednesday, September 21
Overview by Fellow
The opening study group will include an overview of the topic, focusing on Tad’s experience on campaigns outside the United States. We will discuss the different roles political consultants play in campaigns, and how these roles change when Americans work in places with different political and value systems.  We will also watch political advertisements produced by Tad and his colleagues for foreign elections, including ads from the campaigns of Bertie Ahern (Ireland, Taoiseach), Ehud Barak (Israel, Prime Minster), Viktor Yanukovych (Ukraine, President), Mel Zelaya (Honduras, President), and behind the scenes video from foreign cmapaigns.

Film Screening: Our Brand is Crisis (2005)
Between weeks one and two there will be a film screening to watch the award-winning documentary Our Brand is Crisis (2005). A New York Times Critics’ Pick, the film follows a team of American political advisers as they work to elect Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, better known as Goni, to a second term as president during the 2002 Bolivian elections. It features a host of prominent American political consultants, including James Carville, Stan Greenberg, Jeremy Rosner, Bob Shrum and Tad Devine. The title of the film is based on a line of dialog from Tad Devine during a campaign briefing in La Paz, Bolivia featured in the film.

Session II: Wednesday, September 28
Case Study: Bolivia 2002
Week two will be an in-depth look at the 2002 Bolivian Presidential campaign, and a discussion of the movie, Our Brand is Crisis. Tad will use his work as a case study for illustrating the different roles for U.S. consultants on campaigns abroad.

Optional reading: Dispatches from the War Room by Stanley B. Greenberg, Chapter 7 “Gonzalo ‘Goni’ Sánchez de Lozada.”

Session III: Wednesday October 5
Polling and Research
American polling and research techniques are used to understand public opinion and help shape messaging in American political campaigns. This session will focus on how American consultants bring polling and research techniques to campaigns abroad. The class will use the 1998 Israeli election as a case study.

Optional reading: Dispatches from the War Room by Stanley B. Greenberg, Chapter 6 “Ehud Barak.”

Session IV: Wednesday, October 12
Running a National Campaign in an Emerging Democracy
This session will explore how American consultants help create campaign and political structures in countries with emerging democracies. We will also look at how Republican and Democratic consultants from America bridge the ideological divide to work on the same side for candidates abroad. The recent campaigns in Ukraine for President and Prime Minister will provide much of the focus.


Session V: Wednesday, October 19
From Speeches to Sound Bites
This session will look at how American consultants develop set-piece-speeches and sound bites for candidates who come from different cultures, and who often speak a different language. We will examine the impact of speeches in foreign politics, and how research is used to shape messaging.

Guest Speaker: Bob Shrum, Senior Fellow, New York University; Former Principal – Shrum Devine Donilon. Referred to as “arguably the best speechwriter in America today” by the New York Times, Bob Shrum has worked extensively as an adviser and speechwriter for foreign politicians, including British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Tad and Bob worked together when they were business partners on numerous international campaigns including contests in Columbia, Israel, Bolivia and Ireland.


Session VI: Wednesday, October 26
Debates: Campaign Turning Points
Debates have the potential to become major turning points for campaigns. From negotiations with television studios, to full-fledged practice debates put on at party headquarters, debate prep is a major part of the behind-the-scenes campaign effort. This study group session will explore how campaigns prepare for debates, how American consultants help in those debate prep sessions, and look at some memorable debate moments in both the US and abroad.


Session VII: Wednesday, November 2
An American Abroad: The Next Generation
This session will focus on the future of American political consultants abroad. Tad’s business partner, Julian Mulvey, will talk about his experiences working outside the US on campaigns and his perspective as an American political consultant who grew up in England. We will also attempt to incorporate input from candidates around the world who Julian and Tad have worked for and will work with in future elections through Skype interviews with one or more of those candidates.

Guest Speaker: Julian Mulvey, Democratic Political Consultant; Principal – Devine Mulvey. Born in America, Julian grew up in England, but international clients have taken him back across the Atlantic to work in The Hague, Ireland and Ukraine and on campaigns elsewhere, including Guyana, Cambodia, and Afghanistan. Julian first met Tad as a student in Tad’s class (“The Campaign for President”) at Boston University in 1992. Julian is an accomplished playwright, the winner of the Visionary Award from the DC Independent Film Festival and over 20 Pollie Awards from the American Association of Political Consultants.

Session VIII: Wednesday November 9

The Irish Experience: Working with Foreign Political Parties
This final session will explore how American consultants work with foreign parties during election cycles, and beyond. Tad has worked on the past four general elections for Taoiseach (Ireland’s Prime Minister), and important referendum elections for Fianna Fáil, the dominant party in modern Irish politics. He has also worked for the party between election cycles, helping to craft message, speeches and media. We will focus on Ireland as a case study.

Guest Speaker: Seán Dorgan, General Secretary, Fianna Fáil. As General Secretary, Mr. Dorgan is responsible for the overall management of party affairs and elections. Sean worked with Tad on two general elections in Ireland and on the Lisbon Treaty referendum.