Cashing In on the Campaign
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spent much of the summer touring the nation in luxury buses provided by Premiere Transportation of Franklin, Tennessee, including the one pictured here at a rally in Miami in August. Premiere, which also served the campaigns of Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich this year, provided Romney's team with buses suitable for the 1 percent--decked out with leather seating, flat-screen TVs, and fully stocked kitchens. The company, which typically charges $1,900 a day, all-inclusive, supplied the campaign with bus drivers, who were heavily vetted by the Secret Service. It also worked with a printing partner to wrap the vehicles in decorative vinyl. Former music manager Duane Ward founded Premiere in 1994 to provide tour buses to musicians, including 'N Sync and Janet Jackson. A decade later, Premiere switched its focus to corporate clients and politicians and landed a job with Senator John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. Today, the $2.5 million company has 18 full-time employees. It has provided buses to Mike Huckabee, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Elizabeth Dole, and President Barack Obama, who invited his drivers to the White House after the 2008 election.
My Campaign Wear
The first mass-produced political buttons appeared during William McKinley's presidential campaign in 1896. Today, My Campaign Wear founder Curt Jacobson is continuing the tradition by selling political buttons, or, as he puts it, "slinging tin," at campaign rallies across the country. During big election years, Jacobson, known as "Campaign Curt," and about 25 part-time employees drive to rallies in rented minivans, set up tents, and sell thousands of buttons, T-shirts, teddy bears, and other political tchotchkes to attendees. This year, Jacobson will travel to 150 cities, with his employees covering up to 350 more. Jacobson, who founded his company in Sarasota, Florida, in 2000, purchases stock from suppliers around the country, including Affordable Buttons of Rochester, Minnesota, which manufactured the buttons shown here. "The money's not always great, but I love the game," Jacobson says. "I have an insatiable appetite for politics."
In 2008, the Obama campaign embraced social media to get out the vote. Now, it's capitalizing on text messages with the help of Brooklyn, New York, software company Mobile Commons. When supporters text a keyword to 62262 (O-B-A-M-A), they receive an automatic reply prompting them to send their email addresses, Zip codes, or other personal information, which is stored in a database. Then, campaign organizers can log on to Mobile Commons's customer-relationship-management platform and send text messages to users in specific demographics, directing them to rallies, asking them to make donations by clicking on Web links, and, come November, encouraging them to vote. Attorney Jed Alpert and engineer Benjamin Stein founded Mobile Commons in 2007. Today, it has roughly 250 clients, including American Express, AARP, and New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority, for which it created Bus Time, a mobile service that provides real-time information on bus locations.
Transforming the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, into the home of the Democratic National Convention in September was no easy feat. In early August, Hargrove, a trade-show, event, and exhibit company in Lanham, Maryland, began the arena's makeover, removing rows of seating from the stands, installing temporary rooms, rigging miles of cables from the ceiling, and transforming the luxury box suites into 34 television broadcast studios. Hargrove also provided the décor for the convention, including banners, signage, and drapes. Earl Hargrove Jr. founded the company in 1946. Initially focused on decorating store windows, the business was commissioned to design Harry Truman's inaugural float in 1949. It has worked on every presidential inauguration since, including President Obama's Neighborhood Inaugural Ball in 2009 (pictured above). Now headed by Hargrove's son-in-law, Tim McGill, the company has 250 employees and has produced a variety of events, including international auto shows and the NATO summit in Chicago last May.