By Sloan Dickey
Opposition researcher Shauna Daly of American Bridge 21st Century spoke to Professor Abby Jones’ Research Methods class on Tuesday and explained how research is more than what we do for our classes -- it is a key part of politics. Daly, who has been in the middle of American politics for ten years, has held many coveted positions, from Research Director at the DNC to Deputy Director of Research for both the John Edwards (2004) and Barack Obama (2008) presidential campaigns. Now, as the Research Director and Senior Advisor to American Bridge, a liberal Political Action Committee focused on opposition research, Daly uses her skills to investigate Republican candidates’ pasts, including their financial actions, personal conduct, and, yes, even dirt.
Since the beginning of her career as a senate campaign research staffer for Tim Johnson in 2002, Daly has been exposed to the art of finding, uncovering, and exposing the dirty secrets of politicians. Her signature find was John Edwards' infamous “$400 haircut.” While reviewing the campaign finances of her former employer in 2007, she came across the price tag of his haircut at a beauty salon in Beverly Hills, California. It was this find that severely stifled the Edwards campaign and allowed Barack Obama to gain momentum. Daly uses this same mentality as she continues to research Republican front-runners, predominately Mitt Romney, in the 2012 race.
After reviewing Romney’s tax returns, campaign finance reports, and other political datasheets with our class, Daly emphasized the point that numbers mean so much more to someone who can read them. She reiterated the notion that politics is a game where a checked box, an out-of-place number, or a missing receipt could lead to a jackpot for an opposition researcher. The key to success is knowing where and how to look.