International political consulting has seen an increase in activity in recent years. This is evidenced by the large number of political consultants who have worked in foreign countries as well as by the formation of regional and international political consulting organizations. According to The Global Political Consultancy Survey, 57% of American political consultants have worked overseas. Joe Napolitan is credited as becoming the world’s first international political consultant in modern times when, in 1969, he worked on the successful reelection bid of Ferdinand Marcos. Napolitan has claimed to have worked on campaigns in at least nine other countries. Jacques Segeula worked on French, Austrian, Italian, and Swedish campaigns. Philip Gould, a consultant for the British Labour Party, worked on Danish and Swedish campaigns as well as for Bill Clinton in 1992. Gould, along with fellow Clinton, Blair, and Mandela consultants Stan Greenberg and James Carville, formed the London based NOP-Research Group in 1997. Yet another example is the United Kingdom advertising firm of Saatchi and Saatchi. Their services have been performed for British Conservatives to Danish Conservatives to the South African National Party to Russian Parties in recent elections Clearly many political consultants have become international in their consulting activities.
Concerning political consulting organizations, The International Association of Political Consultants (IAPC) formed in 1968 when Michael Bongrand of France and Joseph Napolitan of the United States invited a handful of veteran political campaign managers from fifteen countries to meet in Paris. The membership has since rose to over one-hundred members (iapc.org). The European Association of Political Consultants (EAPC), which currently has sixty-eight members, formed in 1996 in Vienna and the Latin American Association of Political Consultants formed in 1996 in Buenos Aires (eapc.com and alacop.net). There has also been the formation of the Asia Pacific Association of Political Consultants as well as the Argentinean Association of Political Marketing providing further evidence of the internationalization of political consulting.
The Global Consultancy Project surveyed the professional attitudes and role definitions of 502 external political consultants, party managers, and political party staff members who were involved in campaign and communication planning in forty countries. The survey was conducted between January 1998 and August 1999. The survey found that 57% of all US consultants have worked overseas, mostly in Latin America and Western European nations, but also on every other continent in the world. The study also found that one-third of the interviewed party managers and external political consultants outside the United States have cooperated with a US consultant in the recent years. It is also pointed out that although American consultants work in greater number of countries than their international counterparts, many non-US consultants are building impressive client lists outside of their home countries. Western European firms are also offering consulting services world wide. The survey found that forty percent of the East and Central European respondents have recently cooperated with a US consultant, while fifty-two percent report cooperation with Western European consultants. While US consulting techniques and experience are looked to the most, other countries, especially Western European countries, are important international actors as well.
There are many reasons for the rise in international political consulting activity. One reason suggested is the Americanization/Modernization of political consulting. There is a dominant role being played by the US either because the changes originated in the US or because changes occur first in the US. Also, given that the US is where much of the new techniques of campaigning originate, and where most of the world’s political consultants are based, it is inevitable that the bulk of overseas consultants would originate from there. Another reason suggests that since broadly shared political affinities structure many of (the overseas) contacts we witness, in a sense, not simply Americanization of campaigning but a globalization along partisan lines. Another reason given for the rise in international political consulting has to do with political aid. Political aid reflects the desire on the part of certain donor countries to foster and nurture the development of particular political practices in receiving countries. It was estimated that by 1988 the German government was spending $170 million and by 1989 the US government was spending just under $100 million for these activities. These resources were then used to employ overseas consultants or to directly fly in consultants to help conduct campaigns. Lastly it is pointed out that the increasing fierce competition for lucrative consultancy contracts in the United States, and an increase in overhead costs for full-service firms, have resulted in the efforts of leading top consultants to tap new markets outside the United States.
Political consulting has clearly become an international business. Many of the political consultants in the United States, as well as across the world, have begun to work overseas as well as domestically. Recent years have also seen the formation and growth of international and regional political consulting associations. The Global Political Consultancy Survey provided an in depth look into the world of international political consulting by proving the interconnection of political consultants in countries all across the world. The rise of the political consultant was spurred by an Americanization / Modernization of international political consulting, the strength of political affinities across the world, the use of political aid, and the desire of political consulting firms to tap new markets for financial reasons. It seems as if there will only be further increases in international political consulting in the years to come.
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