Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ogilvy Recommended For CHSRA PR Contract

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

At next week's CHSRA board meeting the board will vote on a staff recommendation to award the $9 million PR contract to Ogilvy, a leading public relations communications firm. It's not a surprising choice, as Ogilvy has extensive experience in California political communications. From the Capitol Weekly article on the topic:

Ogilvy Managing Driector Christi Black said her frm received a letter from CHSRA staff saying they were recommending Ogilvy's proposal to the board. Black cautioned that "nothing is official yet, but it's always thrilling to get the letter of intent."

Ogilvy is a global PR firm with offices throughout California, including outposts in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. The firm contracts with other state agencies including the state treasurer's office, the state auditor and the California Earthquake Authority, among others.

It's a sensible choice, given that Ogilvy has that experience with other state government agencies and has a worldwide reach - which the California HSR project will need.

No word yet on how Ogilvy would respond to ridculous nonsense like that being peddled in the LA Weekly. But I'm sure they'll come up with something.

The CHSRA isn't the only California HSR organization working on its public outreach. I've recently joined the board of Californians for High Speed Rail, as we are working on a relaunch of the organization in the near future to provide grassroots leadership and citizen oversight of the HSR project. As part of our relaunch, we're looking for someone to help with web design. Interested in volunteering your services for the cause? Send an email to me - robert.cruickshank at ca4hsr dot org.

And yes, the transition of this blog to WordPress is still happening. Once we get some things squared away, I am hoping to launch it this weekend.

52 comments:

Brandon in San Diego said...

http://www.youtube.com/user/NC3D#p/a/u/0/iU2JSHPx8dQ

jim said...

Hows the weather in san diego? no rain I hope.

jim said...

What exactly will these people do. PR? meaning what? They will keep the public informed? Will there be hsr tv commercials? A float in the parade? Or are they just the smooth talkers to take the heat when there's a controversy or scandal? Id like to see some pro active advertising, Madison Ave style. on CA TV.

jim said...

they should have hired whoever did this

That's how you make a commercial.

jim said...

actually, this ad should get most californians on board, or at least half the population for sure.

Anonymous said...

At this time point, there are 5 comments to this thread, and Jim has made 4 of them.

The PR firm will spew all the lies it can muster to try and keep the public from fully understanding what a boondoggle this project represents.

They will try to hide the lack of a business plan and keep pounding away at the Feds, to approve their application for stimulus funding.

I would hope that the funding for the 2sd half of this fiscal year, which is still to be approved, will remove any chance that this money, for PR will be there. The committee last summer removed the international travel allowances for the Authority, which at least kept junkets from continuing.

This guy Jeffrey Barker, who engineered the first polluted award, is still a deputy director, which just shows you how corrupt this organization is. Political through and through, the poor taxpayers of the state are being fleeced.

With Jerry Brown's campaign now is really serious trouble with the illegal wire tapping charges against him, maybe some better candidates will appear. The thought of enduring him as Governor again, is almost as obnoxious as this project.

TomW said...

Anonymous @ 4:05 AM: At elats Jim used his name when making his points.

Spokker said...

"Political through and through, the poor taxpayers of the state are being fleeced."

Like taxpayers are all innocent. Many of them cheat on their taxes or pay no tax at all! Half of them are bigots and vote to deny the rights of same sex couple to marry. Many taxpayers molest their children in their sleep.

Taxpayers, yeah, we should trust them.

Spokker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I wonder how much Ogilvy put in those envelopes to get this contract? After all, it's the California way of doing things.

Rafael said...

@ Spokker -

you know the drill. No f-bombs. Keep it civilized.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 7:11am -

if you have proof that Ogilvy was engaged in corruption, take it to the police. Otherwise, kindly keep your insinuations to yourself.

Anonymous said...

I created a Yahoo group for high speed rail to encourage discussion for this mode of transportation and share information about the planning, funding, and development of high speed rail in the United States. The link for the group is: http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/us_High_Speed_Rail/

missiondweller said...

Anonymous: Its certainly true we deserve accountability in how HSR money is spent. Given that all the examples of successful HSR are in other countries it seems reasonable there would be some international "junkets".

Given that voters have approved bonds to fund HSR and the current administration is favorable to HSR you may want to focus your efforts on taxpayer accountability and the discussion on how and where its built.

Rafael: Thanks for posting the videos. Its important that people see that HSR is nothing new in other countries and that there is no reason we shouldn't have the same here. Often times the discussion becomes so theoretical its easy to forget this isn't a pie in the sky fantasy but rather is a proven, reliable form of high speed transporation.

jim said...

Anon, thank you for keeping track for me.
You know you can make accusations of corruption and call this a boondoggle but you never back it up with anything. It just makes you sound like another one of those wingnuts who thinks there's a big conspiracy under every bed.
The government is taking over your life.
Obama isn't really an american
Everybody but you is a socialist ( as if there's anything wrong with being a socialist)
Anything you like is legitimate but anything you don't like is a boondoggle.
if you can't handle living in California then why don't you go live in a low tax republican run red state where they do everything just the way you like it?

Why ?because every one of those states is a socially retarded, politically corrupt, visually unpleasant toilet.

You want to have your cake and eat it too.

YOu want to live in a beautiful state with unlimited opportunity and fantastic weather but you don't want to pay your share for maintain it and preparing it for the future.

People like you are the problem.
can't do this can't do that, no no no.
move away. go to texas. or nevada. or someplace that better suites your politics.

California is moving ahead like the rest of the world. We are a global player. If you can't keep up then step aside.

jim said...

I'm still waiting for your cry of " I can't wait to pack up and get out of this state" as I'm sure that's next. ( as if its some big threat )
and by the way in case you lost track, I've posted 6 times.

jim said...

Puis je poser une question? For any of you who have done europe rail...
is the eurostar worth a ride, or would sticking to just around france ( skipping a day to london) a better idea. I want to cover a lot of france, but still have the best of the hsr experience. I mean would I be missing much if I skip the chunnel?

Anonymous said...

Expert to Explain Unique Community Process for High Speed Rail

BURLINGAME, Calif. – October 29, 2009 – The public will have two opportunities next week to learn about a community-input process that will be used for the Peninsula portion of the high speed rail line from an expert hired by the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) and Caltrain. This is the only section of the line to have this additional process, which is designed to integrate concerns and suggestions from stakeholders in the project as it is being designed.

Hal Kassoff, a nationally known expert on Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS), will be in town all week to help members of the CHSRA board of directors, local officials and the public understand how CSS works. He is a senior vice president with Parsons Brinckerhoff.
CSS has been successfully used for many years in highway projects to incorporate thinking from a wide variety of stakeholders. Its inclusion in high speed rail represents the first time it will be used on a rail project anywhere in the world.
Kassoff will explain CSS on Wednesday, November 4, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at a meeting hosted by the CHSRA and Caltrain. He will give a shorter explanation on Friday, November 6, during the Peninsula Cities Consortium meeting at 8:45 a.m. Both meetings are open to the public and will take place in the Council Chambers at Burlingame City Hall, 501 Primrose Road. Advance reservations are required by November 1 for the November 4 meeting; email prp@samtrans.com or call Camille Tsao at (415) 836-5604.

The Federal Highway Administration defines CSS as “a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that involves all stakeholders in developing a transportation facility that complements its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic and historic and environmental resources while maintaining safety and mobility.”
The CSS process is intended to empower communities along the Caltrain line – the designated route for high speed rail – between San Francisco and San Jose. In addition to fulfilling the usual California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Police Act (NEPA) requirements, CSS will provide an overlay that considers all factors and their impacts on surrounding communities - not just the rail corridor. It will offer additional transparency and accountability during the design process.
“CSS is CEQA and NEPA on steroids,” said Terry Nagel of the Burlingame City Council, who is her city’s alternate on the Peninsula Cities Consortium. “High speed rail officials have adopted its use because they realize the usual methods of public engagement are not sufficient for a project of this magnitude on the Peninsula, where people are intensely involved in the process.”
The Peninsula Cities Consortium is a group of five cities (Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, Menlo Park and Palo Alto) that are working together to address mutual concerns about the high speed rail project on the Peninsula. Representatives have been meeting since January. They suggested incorporating CSS in the high speed rail project on the Peninsula. They also plan to introduce a Web 2.0 e-government component that would make it easier for a wide variety of stakeholders and experts to participate in the design.
PCC members have held both a High Speed Rail Teach-In and a High Speed Rail Design Workshop. They invite other cities on the rail line to work with them.
“It is our belief that the final design should minimize the impacts upon local communities and incorporate best practices of urban design ideas from rail communities around the world,” explained Yoriko Kishimoto, Chair of the Peninsula Cities Consortium.
For more information about how CSS is used in the transportation development process, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/context/cssqa.cfm. To learn more about the Peninsula Cities Consortium, visit www.peninsularail.com

AndyDuncan said...

I mean would I be missing much if I skip the chunnel?

You'd be missing a dark tube. If you need to get to London from Paris, by all means, take the Eurostar. I haven't ridden the Eurostar since the new HS1 line was put in, but the chunnel itself was like any other tunnel. It was light, then it got dark all of a sudden, after a while it got light again. Speeding through the French countryside south of the chunnel with a tasty sandwich and cheap champagne is far nicer than the tunnel portion, but you don't need to take the Eurostar to get that experience.

Whatever you do, don't take one of the roll-on-roll-off motor coaches. I hear that's an awful experience. And slow.

It's just transportation infrastructure, after all, even for a rail geek, I think it's probably better to plan your travel based on where you want to go.

jim said...

Looking at availability pricing and schedules, the speed of tgv makes if possible to do a circle tour of the whole country with ease. Hsr in cali will do the same for our people not to mention being a boon to tourism. The tourist dollars alone make the project worth it here.

Robert Cruickshank said...

OT: Gavin Newsom quits governor's race

Newsom is a very strong supporter of HSR and the Transbay Terminal project. I hope and assume Jerry Brown will be as strong an HSR supporter as he was when he was governor 30 years ago.

And for that matter I'd welcome the support of Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner, and Tom Campbell.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

unless you have a reason to go to the UK, it might be better to skip the hefty fare for Eurostar and stay on the continent.

If you have some flexibility in when you travel, hunt around for TGV Prem's fares. EUR 22 for Paris -

In Paris, forget about driving, it's a nightmare. So is parking. Just buy a Paris Visite pass for the number of days you're there. Taking the RER is usually fine if you have suitcases, the metro station not so much.

Spend what you save on some genuine poulet de Bresse.

The Channel Tunnel as such is not exciting for passengers unless a truck on a Eurotunnel train in front of you catches fire. Not the kind of excitement you want, though, tunnel fires are extremely hot and dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Robert Cruickshank for Governor...

Anonymous said...

http://blogs.laweekly.com/ladaily/general/high-speed-rail-ogilvy-pr-cont/

from this link:

Is it impossible to hire a PR firm that isn't staffed by former Schwarzenegger aids?

....the Californa High Speed Rail Authority is expected to give the gig to Ogilvy Public Relations -- whose executives include a former Deputy Chief of Staff and Deputy Campaign Manager for the governor.



The Authority and Mr. Barker are simply deaf aren't they?

Bianca said...

Is it impossible to hire a PR firm with no political connections?

No, it's not impossible, but why on earth would you want to do that? Just because someone has a history in Sacramento does not automatically mean they are tainted by corruption. It means they know people in Sacramento, and that is a useful thing.

First people complain because the Authority has done crappy outreach, which it has, because it's been underfunded and run by engineers. Now people complain because they are set to hire a PR firm that actually has, you know, social skills.

Hang for a sheep, or hang for a goat.

Alon Levy said...

Just because someone has a history in Sacramento does not automatically mean they are tainted by corruption.

Can you give one example of a firm with connections to the capital where there is evidence it's not corrupt?

jim said...

Of course there is corruption in sacramento and washington. We have a representative form of government and what you see in america is what you get in the form of representation. They are americans, doing their best to please the american people lest they kicked out.
Some whiney folks would have us believe that the american people are like all totally pure and wholesome and good.. a nation full of blessed little angels. ha ha ha. and the big mean corrupt politicians are the cause of our ruin.
When if fact, as an old running buddy of mine used to say, "they [american system] teach us how to be criminals [in america]"
The very nature of capitalism is morally bankrupt as it has greed and desire as its motive rather than altruism.
The real american way is, or excuse me, the the typical american's definition of "freedom" is
I want to be free to get away with as much as possible and if I get caught, I want a long laundry list of excuses for why the consequences shouldn't apply to me"
A tax "loophole" while legal, is still a form of getting over.
Everything from double parking "just this once"
to "floating checks" to lying about how much you paid for that used car to dmv, it all boils down to the same thing.
American business wants the "freedom" to wheel and deal without regulation.
People will "work under the table" in the blink of an eye. the list goes on. yellow lights, hollywood stops, returns/refunds every single aspect of our lives is ruled by a philosophy of getting over and we all do it.
So please get off the cross already people. They are doing exactly what each an every one us does everyday. If it weren't for graft and corruption nothing would get done.

Bianca said...

Can you give one example of a firm with connections to the capital where there is evidence it's not corrupt?

You know, there is a presumption of innocence in this country. Asking me to prove a negative is one small rhetorical step from asking me when I stopped beating my wife.

Look, just about every company in California that employs 500+ people has connections in Sacramento, and they would be foolish not to. If having connections in Sacramento means you are corrupt, that's a stupidly narrow-minded purity test. And you'd paint every medium- to large-sized private employer in the state with that broad brush.

The CHSRA absolutely should be hiring a politically well-connected firm. Being politically well-connected means that people take your calls, and CHSRA needs that right now.

Spokker said...

"you know the drill. No f-bombs. Keep it civilized."

That isn't the drill.

jim said...

@rafaelThe Channel Tunnel as such is not exciting for passengers unless a truck on a Eurotunnel train in front of you catches fire. Not the kind of excitement you want, though, tunnel fires are extremely hot and dangerous.

well its always good to have a story to tell when you get home.
anyway It appears I can get a first class rail pass to meet my needs in france for a mere 400 bucks. Five cities in 10 days may be a lot but I want to eat each regions specialties!

jim said...

4night paris
tgv to dijon
1 night dijon
tgv to marseille
2 nights marseille
tgv to bordeaux
2 nights bordeaux
1 night biarritz
tgv to paris
2 nights paris
with day trip to st michelle normandie


One reason I can't wait for tgv in cali is for the tourism benefit. You cant even imagine how much easier it will be to get tourists to where they want to go and tourism is a ginormous money maker for cali. Imagine being able to market cali tgv just the way they do in france.
Deniers would have us believe that planes and cars do the trick but they don't.
One fabulously popular product is the california rail pass. 7 travel days in 21 for only 159.00
Planes serve sf and la. and honestly, and Im not trying to be funny, cuz i love LA, but they want to spend as little time in la as possible, and just like us when we go abroad, they want to see the countryside. Every darn one them wants to go to
monterey, napa, tahoe, yosemite, las vegas, sequoia and san diego... oh and for some reason, sacramento. (?) The rail pass gets them to all of these. and incorporating a high speed line as planned will shave from and hour and a half to 4 hours off current rail or driving times and as you can see by my itin above, typically people are trying to get in as much as possible so hours saved en route mean more time to relax at destinations.
Honestly I can't believe that anti hsr folks really believe its a bad thing or are really incapable of seeing the overwhelming benefits. They have to be putting us on.
Id even bet that with proper marketing, the tourism trade alone will make this profitable.

Alon Levy said...

You know, there is a presumption of innocence in this country.

For ordinary people, there is. For politicians, given the odds every one of them should be presumed guilty until proven innocent.

Unlike in the case of an ordinary crime, it's possible to prove a negative here. For a PR firm, you could look at its past record and see whether there are any obvious red flags, whether it is effective in its campaigns, whether it lands private-sector contracts, and so on.

jim said...

well there just doing pr, not running nasa. As a taxpayer I say, hire the ones who are slick enough to get the job done.

Spokker said...

"For ordinary people, there is."

Bull. Everybody and mother hires people they know. Look at most of the entertainment industry. Most writers on TV shows are white, heterosexual males who recommend their other white, heterosexual male friends for jobs. Yet few people are barking up that tree.

Parents get their kids jobs because they know someone who knows someone. It's all cronyism. It's all about who you know. Hispanic job seekers whose parents are laborers and thus have no connections are at a disadvantage. It doesn't matter to the parent who practically hands their half-retarded offspring a gig. We talk about meritocracy. Meritocracy is the exception to the rule, and that's what most people like.

People are not innocent, and collectively they pull more crap than any construction firm or politician. Let's call a spade a spade here.

Spokker said...

I was reading TRAC's lies about HSR and Santa Fe Springs in their crappy newsletter and they say that it'll go through a lot of residential neighborhoods. That corridor is mostly industrial.

And even if it was mostly residential I would think to myself, you know, half of this state is full of bigots anyway. So I'd be glad that HSR would negatively impact half the people in any given area. Screw them.

Bianca said...

Alon Levy said:

For politicians, given the odds every one of them should be presumed guilty until proven innocent.

How are you defining "politician"? The subject came up because former Schwarzenegger staffers are now at Ogilvy, and yesterday Anonymous posters @7:11 am and @4:59pm implied that the selection process was less than transparent. Does your definition of "politician" include the staffers who work for them? Because I can tell you that those staffers do not see themselves that way.


Unlike in the case of an ordinary crime, it's possible to prove a negative here. For a PR firm, you could look at its past record and see whether there are any obvious red flags, whether it is effective in its campaigns, whether it lands private-sector contracts, and so on.


I disagree. Being effective in its campaigns and/or landing private-sector contracts is no more evidence that a PR firm is or is not corrupt than having political connections is evidence that it is.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Jim, the weather in Coastal Southern California has been great... all things said.

It's a little cooler and there was a little more wind... but relative to the rest of the nation... still paradise.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Jim... omgoodness, that first SNCF ad was great... the trains coming together at teh end was a bit over the top, but good stuff! Sorry for this, but it really was lol.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Jim,
Regarding Eurostar... that was my first HSR ride; Paris to London. Because it was my first, yes, it was worthwhile - even for a last minute ticket purchase.

Yes, expensive.

And, I was only in London for the day. It was worth it.

That was late-May 2008. I believe the train got up to 185mph. The best part was looking out the windows to the north and seeing the really old churches and other structures on the distant horizon. It brought to life all the WWII movies set in old towns.

Really cool.

The train itself... was a train. The tunnel... nothing to see.

One of the best parts of the trip was arriving at San Pacreas station... not knowing what to do with the day and knowing relatively little... I wondered to a UK Rail ticket buying area and aksed told them/asked them...

"I am only here for the day. I have to be back here in about 8 hours. Where would you recommend I go on the Tube to see some stuff?" Basically.

They were suprised by this, but directed me to the Westminster Station... a 1 transfer 2 train trip.

Stunning place!

I walked out of the station and was absolutely floored! It was the first sunny day they had in a while. I think it was a Saturday?

The first thing I saw was The Eye - ferris wheel - and it seemed tens of thousands of people were out. Then the buses... old buildings... really cool.

And, although I had just left Paris, I had never seen so many beautiful women in one place! I did not expect that. I expected frumpy old people.

Anyway, I wondered back to San Pancreas in a meandering path... generally headed northeast. I walked through many historic areas... including by Buckingham Palace... and areas memorialized in movies and other pictures. really cool.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Spokker,
IMO, TRAC is written by enthusiasts for enthusists. It's poorly fact checked and edited.

Their editorials do a dis-service to trains and alternative transportation.

Brandon in San Diego said...

I'm heading to Spain in December. I'm landing in Madrid and visiting the rest of the country by rail. It's so much easier than flying.

Jim,
I believe Eurostar tix are much cheaper if you buy them in advance. Not last minute.

jim said...

@brandon Im spending 4 days in SAN this week - (zoo seaworld blah blah blah) so as long as it isn't raining...

A london day trip I suppose I could pencil it in since its quick. The reason I thought of it first is because flying is sooooo uncomfortable and I don't know how Im going to manage a 10 hour nonstop flight from SFO t9 CDG so I thought well maybe SFO JFK one night then JFK-LHR then Eurostar. to break up the horror. But then you know thats extra days. Plus I figured starting in England would be a warm up for france ( europe but they speak english)

Im no so terrified of the french though since I meet so many of them here. They don't seem to hate us at all. In fact, they seem to be quite fond of america. ill be on my best behavior so as not to cause an international incident.
i understand they prefer you don't stand too close ( so do I) They expect people to follow proper civilized behavior in public ( I love that) They use sir and maam and lots of pleases and thank yous. ( hooray for civility) Meals are a ritual ( I may never come home) and they do tech with style, not just for tech's sake. I mean what's not to love!

Im thinking October.

Spokker said...

Brandon, I don't necessarily think TRAC's preference for incremental upgrades is a bad one. I personally think both the all-out approach and the incremental approach have pros and cons. Yeah, the incremental rural HSR approach will have less trouble with homeowners, for example, but I think so-called "beet field" stations will reduce the reach of the system. To each his own I guess.

But when I read TRAC editorials on HSR they really sound like some dude with a tinfoil hat in his basement screaming about a conspiracy theory.

I write a newsletter about mass transit for a non-profit advocacy group. The owner and myself mostly disagree on this particular project. When I write about HSR it's much more objective than the drivel TRAC spouts.

I was actually asked to write an article for California Rail News (not about HSR) and I refused. After all, I think they write newsletters similar to the ones found in 1939 Germany... eh, Tolmach?

jim said...

But when I read TRAC editorials on HSR they really sound like some dude with a tinfoil hat in his basement screaming about a conspiracy theory

that last issue was ridiculous.

Peter said...

@ jim

The only problem with breaking up the flight into SFO-JFK and then JFK-CDG, then you spend an extra 5 hours on airplanes. Great circle route does not pass over JFK.

jim said...

Well then the solution for the 10 hour nonstop would appear to be a proper dose of any number of appropriate medications. nothing says welcome to a brand new day like a little blue pill.

Anonymous said...

You guys must be on the Bechtel payroll.

Alon Levy said...

Bianca, those of us who don't work for politicos don't make a distinction between staffers and elected officials. On issues that aren't prime-time concerns on the order of health care and taxes, the staffers often have more power than the politicians. In fact, the best lobbyists are those who know which mid-level staffer to talk to.

A history of effectiveness and private-sector success would make it more likely that Ogilvy got the contract because it's a good PR firm rather than because of political patronage. Since you can't prove a negative outright, you have to find small bits of evidence for it. It's entirely possible that a politician told CHSRA to pick Ogilvy even if it was good, but if it had been the corruption-free choice to begin with, it matters less. But again, this requires some investigation.

jim said...

ITs just a PR firm people who cares!

This is why it takes so long for anything to get done in California any more. Busybodies everywhere trying to insert themselves into the process.

Bianca said...

On issues that aren't prime-time concerns on the order of health care and taxes, the staffers often have more power than the politicians.

What? I find that assertion astonishing. I will grant that some staffers, especially senior ones, can wield a significant amount of influence, but at the end of the day, it is the elected official who truly has the power. Staffers may seem to have power because they can grant or deny access to the person with the power, not because actually have it. A Member of Congress can't send a staffer to go vote for them. A staffer may suggest supporting or opposing a bill but at the end of the day is it the decision of the elected official.

All of this is a distraction, however, from the initial conversation. The perception that having political connections inherently makes a person or organization corrupt is overly simplistic and a bit naïve. Sure, there are corrupt politicians, and corrupt staffers, but corruption exists wherever it finds a foothold, and that can be in government, yes, but also in professional sports, organized religion, the press, higher education, and so forth.

A presumption that having political connections equals corruption is so overly broad as to be nonsensical. For this reason: any PR firm in California that is remotely competent is going to have connections, political connections, in Sacramento. A PR firm that didn't would be useless to CHSRA. Useless.

This entire process is inextricably wound up in politics. California legislators (not their staffers!) will continue to wield a significant amount of power over the Authority's pocketbook, and thus, the Authority's actions. For them to hire a PR firm that couldn't help them in that regard would be foolishness.

Alon Levy said...

Staffers may seem to have power because they can grant or deny access to the person with the power, not because actually have it. A Member of Congress can't send a staffer to go vote for them. A staffer may suggest supporting or opposing a bill but at the end of the day is it the decision of the elected official.

On issues that aren't the politician's core concerns, the politician doesn't have time to study the subject and make an informed decision. Hence, he'll usually defer to the senior staffers, who themselves get the information from the mid-level staffers they delegate the issue to.

Bianca said...

he'll usually defer to the senior staffers, who themselves get the information from the mid-level staffers they delegate the issue to.

That implies that the entire process happens in a vacuum. It doesn't: for a bill to come to the floor, it has to matter to someone, and usually it matters to quite a lot of people. And most of the time there are people on the other side of the issue. And all of those people in contact with both the elected official directly and with his or her staff; and that politician is in contact with other politicians. All kinds of horse trading goes on, and it doesn't matter how much research a junior staffer does on some obscure area of patent law or whatever if the person they are working for agrees to vote a certain way so that someone else will vote in support of their bill on gold-plated beetle fetchers.