Founded in 1969, the AAPC is a multi-partisan organization of political and public affairs professionals dedicated to improving democracy. The AAPC has over 1,250 members hailing from all corners of the globe. It is the largest association of political and public affairs professionals in the world. AAPC members consist of political consultants, media consultants, pollsters, campaign managers, corporate public affairs officers, professors, fund-raisers, lobbyists, congressional staffers and vendors. Membership is open to everyone associated with politics from the local level to the White House. Click here to learn more about what AAPC membership can do for you.
AAPC members understand that, while we are often competitors on Election Day, we are all colleagues with similar professional concerns that transcend “Republican,” “Democrat” or “Independent” labels.
The profession of political consulting as its own niche is a very recent phenomenon, taking its place alongside computer gurus and television reporters as a career that has come of age.
Yet, political campaigning was not born yesterday, despite many pundits’ insistence that they helped it evolve in their own shops. In fact, the first recorded political consultant was Quintus Cicero, author of the Handbook of Electioneering. Written to help his brother win a campaign for the consulship of Rome in 63 B.C., it was a first. Since then perhaps millions have offered advice to candidates for public office. Machiavelli’s suggestions to his prince being among the most quoted.
The creation of political consultation as a separate career discipline has been a development of the middle 20th Century. As with most of politics, there is disagreement over when the “industry” began. Some call the California firms of Baus and Ross or Whittaker-Baxter, back in the 1930s, the founders of the field. Others credit people like Joe Napolitan, Clif White, Matt Reese, Bill Roberts, Stu Spencer, Joe Cerrell, Bill Hamilton, Bob Squier, Walter deVries and their peers as the first “true” political consultants. These political pioneers date back to the 50s.
More than 50,000 public elections are held in the United States each year. Add to that number the selection of elected leaders for private, professional, academic, business, labor, public interest, and other organized bodies, as well as public votes on local and state referenda, initiatives, and constitutional amendments, and the tally skyrockets to over 500,000 elections annually. Indeed, this business is growing by leaps and bounds. More than a billion dollars is spent yearly on campaign communication.
Political consultants can do everything or specialize in one specific service. General services include overall strategic expertise, whereas specialist services include such diverse talents as survey research, television or radio production and placement, telemarketing, direct mail, fund raising, media relations, computer use, and a host of additional forms of expertise. A recent issue of Campaigns & Elections Magazine lists more than 56 separate job categories of political professionals. In addition, a growing number of corporations, public interest groups, labor and other entities interested in public policy are hiring political consultants as members of their public relations, public affairs, or advocacy teams.
Political advice-giving as a business, independent of other types of income production, began about the same time as the formation of the American Association of Political Consultants — in 1969. Only a handful of people attended the first meeting at Lincoln Center in New York City. The Association now numbers more than 1,250 active members, and operates from a permanent office in McLean, VA.