This column is about political pollster, and former Republican, Frank Luntz. For the record, I worked for Frank for several years as his senior vice president. I have not spoken with him in twenty-years, and until last week when I spoke to a reporter from Salon.com, I have never spoken about him publicly.
What changed? I have tired of Frank’s regurgitated b.s., questionable ethics, and influence over sheepish Republican leaders in Washington and lazy journalists who are not capable of thinking on their own or seeing Luntz for who he is.
But I have to hand one thing to him, Frank’s ability to maintain relevance for nearly 30-years is a testament to his hard work and determination.
From my time working for him, here are a few key takeaways about Frank Luntz:
- He is extremely intelligent. I characterize him as a guy with a 200 I.Q. with the emotional intelligence and social skills of a 5-year-old.
- He is an exceptional self-promoter who relishes the opportunity to be seen, heard and talked about.
- He is obsessed with the accumulation of wealth, and everything he does can be figured out by following the money.
In the last few years, I have quietly watched Frank present his schtick over and over again on cable television, podcasts, and as a source in print and online news publications. What strikes me every time I see him is how nothing has changed. Luntz presents himself as an objective political pollster while working for the Republican party and various high-profile GOP candidates.
Yet if the media and the party bosses looked a little closer and connected the dots, they would realize Frank Luntz is not an altruistic man out to save America or the Republican Party. And he most certainly is not objective and not deserving of the media’s attention.
Consider the following:
- Luntz frequently makes bold predictions and states opinion as fact, then gets it wrong. But the media seems to quickly forget, as in the case of his Tweeter post on Election Night 2016 when he predicted Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump.
- In January 2021, Luntz renounced his Republican party affiliation, yet continues to advise the GOP, having attended a leadership retreat in Orlando in April. Whoever invited Luntz should explain why someone who has effectively burned his Republican Party registration card is still advising Republicans. Ever wonder why Washington, D.C. is such a mess? This explains it.
- He restates the obvious, such as when he says Donald Trump is obnoxious or doesn’t take criticism well. Thanks for that Frank, we couldn’t have figured that out without you.
- He presents himself as an objective source to the media while taking money from the very people to whom he is “objectively reporting” his research. This was recently reported on in an article in Salon which said it had discovered Luntz had gone on Vice to give an objective focus group with voters about the U.S. Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke. But what neither HBO nor VICE News told their audience was that Luntz was being paid by the Cruz campaign. Vice told Salon it was not aware Luntz had been paid ($55,129) for the research. This is classic Frank Luntz.
- His own words suggest he manipulates or falsifies what he presents as research. Earlier this year in a self-aggrandizing TV interview, Luntz said, “2016 was the beginning of my insistence on being accurate, rather than being partisan.” So Frank, what were you spewing prior to 2016? Just lies to partisans elicited from cooked-up polls and by yelling at focus group participants?
- He is a sycophant to people in power. Even his roommate is a person of influence. Last month it was revealed Luntz rented/loaned (who knows what) his 7,000 square foot D.C. condo to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for (supposedly) just $1,500 a month. McCarthy may be in trouble for this as it reeks of a gift (which is prohibited by House ethics rules). And Luntz may be in hot water with his condo board as the bylaws state renting an individual room is prohibited, and all rentals need approval of the board (which Luntz apparently did not get).
- He is a creature of Washington, who needs to protect the status quo in order to preserve his own business and lifestyle. Luntz keeps his client list close to the vest, but companies he has worked for over the years are “who’s who” of business, including American Express, Coca-Cola, Mirage Resorts, and Merrill Lynch.
Here is something else every Republican member of Congress and mainstream media boss needs to know about Frank. He skirts the intent of the law. When I worked for Frank, I recall him saying he doesn’t register as a lobbyist so he won’t have to report most of what he does for clients.
Whenever he would visit with members of Congress, he would remind accompanying staffers, “Don’t mention the client or a bill number or name, as that constitutes lobbying.” In Frank’s mind, if we were on the Hill to talk about a utility regulatory matter for then-client Enron and were presenting “research” conducted by Enron to influence key decision-makers, so long as we didn’t mention the client or a bill, he wasn’t lobbying.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson (who is no friend of Luntz) has called attention to another component of Luntz’s questionable tactics and evading lobbying registration. Carlson has noted Luntz is not a registered lobbyist, and that yet he “lobbies on behalf of the world’s most left-wing firms.” Carlson has referenced Google, Nike, and Delta airlines as some of those corporations. The commentator has also ripped Luntz for his relationship with McCarthy, stating, “The top Republican in the House lives with a Google lobbyist? Come on. Even by the sleazy and corrupt standards of politics in Washington, that didn’t seem possible. In fact, it sounded like a joke.”
Need more evidence of Luntz’s bizarre behavior? Look no further than his Twitter @FrankLuntz feed. The feed has a peculiarly high number of posts and reposts related to the Coronavirus. Dr. Faucci look out! Frank Luntz may be jockeying for your job.
I tabulated all 108 of Frank’s posts and reposts from the last thirty days, and sure enough, it is curious indeed.
Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Frank’s posts had to do with Covid, many of them focusing on encouraging vaccinations. He mentioned a number of other various political matters twelve percent (12%) of the time, though curiously none focused on recent events in Israel nor race relations in the U.S. He did have a few supportive things to say about Liz Cheney, plenty of negative comments about Donald Trump, and various observations about Joe Biden. Four percent of his Tweets were about the only guy in the media who sees him for who he is: Tucker Carlson.
For a guy who likes to be called “doctor,” his focus on the pandemic and getting people vaccinated would be normal for someone who is a medical professional. But Luntz is not a medical doctor, he is a political pollster with a Ph.D. in politics.
My bet is Luntz has a client who benefits from vaccinations and his Covid scare tactics. As for his actual motivation, we may never know, but Frank sums it up in on of his Tweets, which says, “We’ll need more Americans to listen to physicians instead of pundits.”
No doubt, Frank. Now tell us if you are getting paid for this (and by whom), or just go away. America is tired of your schtick infecting the political discourse with disingenuous nonsense.
Chris Ingram is a communication, political, and media consultant in Tampa. Follow him on Twitter at @IrreverentView or send him an e-mail to email@example.com.
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