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Association Bisnow
October 10, 2007
Political Association Crafts Own Strategy

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AAPC Executive Director Anthony Bellotti has something most associations would die for: guaranteed winners in next fall’s elections. With more than 1,000 members, the American Association of Political Consultants is the largest group of political pros in the world—its members have included such legends as Lee Atwater and Bob Squier. Since its consultants are involved in hundreds of political races and referendums, AAPC constituents are sure to be behind many November victories. Meanwhile, Bellotti is plotting to make AAPC a bigger player in DC and the association world. We swung by to hear the plan.

Anthony shows Bisnow how he gets to work in the morning. (Okay, no, but he did work on the reelection campaigns of George W. and the Governator.) The 29-year-old became chief in July, in a homecoming of sorts: He had interned at AAPC while getting his Masters in Political Management from GW and later served as Director of Communications and Membership.

“I call it moving from AAPC 1.0 to AAPC 2.0,” Bellotti tells us of his efforts to raise the association’s profile, including a foray into hosting member schmooze-fests. First up: an October 23 event at Lounge 201 on Capitol Hill, the Sinatra-style cocktail joint. (The private bar and sofas in the back room should be ideal for clandestine political talk.) It isn’t all martinis, either; Bellotti sees this highly charged political year as the perfect time to attack new association goals like improving ways for members to share winning election strategies; keeping them up to date on legislation affecting the business; expanding international opportunities; and creating college courses to build the next generation of consultants.

Standing at his shrine to members from the past, Anthony is gearing up to fete current political advertising stars at the Pollie Awards. AAPC’s take on the Oscars will be held in March in Santa Monica, following AAPC’s annual board meeting. Anthony wants to exceed the record-setting 3,096 entries for the 2007 awards, and is adding staff (he has three full-time folks now) to handle the big event.

AAPC’s 28-member board is spilt between Democrats and Republicans. One item up for board discussion: opening slots to third parties and independents. Slots remain filled until someone leaves and then—in a throwback to day of smoke-filled rooms—the party holding that seat suggests a successor. Anthony tries to maximize the use of his board members, all of them with contact-filled Rolodexes. “Using your board is really a key to a successful association,” he says. “You have to find ways to energize the board. They’re volunteers; use them or lose them.”

In the midst of a redecoration, AAPC has asked members for historic buttons, bumper stickers, and other paraphernalia to make the office hum with the experiences of its members.

A lifetime animal lover and advocate for animal protection, Anthony is a founder and director for the Humane Research Council. How does that gentle side square with heading an association in the cut-throat world of political consulting? “Both are about principles and ethics,” explains Anthony. The multi-faceted AAPC leader also finds a way to keep up his jazz and rock drumming. He has a drum pad in his office, which he uses to clear his thoughts. “I try to get in a certain amount of practice time each day and the pad is a good way to squeeze it in.”

As for other hidden talents, Anthony is fluent in Spanish—he traveled to Venezuela to observe Hugo Chavez’s presidential campaign. He also authored a case study on Francois Mitterrand’s come-from-behind re-election campaign in grad school. (Mon dieu, a Republican Francophile!)



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