Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Spitzer Petitioner's Tale: $1,600 To Get Signatures For "A Schmuck"

A report from a high paid canvasser for Eliot Spitzer:

The text message forwarded from a friend of a friend had all the classic signs of a scam; ALL CAPS, asterisks, and a fantastical promise: $800 a day to gather signatures for Eliot Spitzer's nascent campaign for Comptroller.

The day before, I had been let go from my job as an unpaid intern for a Queens councilmember. The truth is, I respected Spitzer. I had read Peter Elkind's book about him and the powerful Wall Street cabal that brought him down. Alex Gibney's documentary, Client Nine, was marvelous. Spitzer was someone who pissed off the wrong people and paid the price for going after unethical behavior.

Also, he was going to pay me $800 a day. I would have done it for a lot less. I hopped on the train and headed for the address given in the text message, a five-story pre-war residential building on West 12th Street.

As I entered the designated apartment, a large blonde man who took his fashion cues from Mad Men handed me a stack of petitions. My supervisor was short on guidance. Between making phone calls, answering texts, and emailing, he handed me a pile of petition slips, and quietly confirmed the $800/day rate. One rule: make sure they are registered Democrats. After a perfunctory “Don’t talk to the media,” I was sent out. The Occupy Wall Street chant, “This is what democracy looks like!” was ringing in my ears.
Due to the high pay, I felt obligated to get at many signatures as I could. The West Village has many aging Jewish women and gay couples. These are my people. I realized the trick was to start with the most potent part to draw people in. “Hi, I’m with Eliot Spitzer for Comptroller of the City of New York. Would you like to sign our petition to put him on the ballot?” has a LOT of syllables. So I tried innumerable permutations of my pitch.

"Sign for Spitzer?"

"I’m with Eliot Spitzer. Sign our petition please?"

"Eliot Spitzer for office. Sign please?"

Then I started barking, “SPITZER! SIGN FOR SPITZER!” It worked. Many people stopped and signed. Others told me I was crazy.


"Heaven's no."

"Heck no."

"You must be kidding."

"You’re joking right?"

"You must be joking."

"That schmuck!"

"What nerve!"

"I'd never vote for a hellion!"

I was also insulted with what seemed like 30 different Yiddish words. Who knew Yiddish could be so versatile?

Read the rest here.

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