In the fall of 2014, AFSC decided to use the upcoming presidential race as an opportunity to call for a halt to governing under the influence (GUI) of corporate interests. We trained hundreds of staff and volunteer “bird dogs” to attend campaign events and ask tough questions about campaign financing and the influence of money on legislation. The primary focus was on Iowa and New Hampshire, the two states that get the lion’s share of attention from presidential hopefuls.

GUI raised issues that AFSC has championed for years, including mass incarceration, the immigrant detention bed quota, and trillions spent on war while schools, hospitals, and infrastructure crumble. Prepped with tall banners and unflinching questions, the bird dogs had unmatched access to both candidates and their 24/7 media entourages.

Hundreds of “bird dog reports” have been uploaded to the project’s website, creating a permanent record that can inform voters and would-be bird dogs in other states. In Iowa, GUI also used the caucus process for one-on-one voter education. This kind of work gives ordinary people a voice in the political process that can help counteract the influence of bundlers, lobbyists, and super PACs.

  • Person wearing dog mask holding a banner.
    The verb “bird dog” means to search out or pursue with dogged determination, and comes from hunting dogs, who are trained to find and flush out birds. Photo: Jon Krieg
  • Group of people on building steps, holding signs, with GUI banner in front.
    GUI banners stood out when Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, and Bernie Sanders filed for the New Hampshire primary in November 2015. Photo: Arnie Alpert
  • Ted Cruz speaks to crowd with green banner behind.
    A GUI green banner, and tough questions, awaited Ted Cruz on his filing day in New Hampshire. Photo: Arnie Alpert
  • Group of people with attention focused on Donald Trump, who is speaking from the steps of a building.
    Donald Trump (center with red tie) had to pass GUI messages as he left the New Hampshire State House. Photo: Eric Zulaski
  • Man holding banner talking with two young women.
    Arnie Alpert, New Hampshire regional co-director and one of the architects of the GUI program, meets fellow staffers outside a Hillary Clinton event in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo: Jon Krieg
  • Several people walking holding banners and signs.
    Voter awareness and education is an important part of GUI. Photo: Arnie Alpert
  • Young woman talking with Hillary Clinton.
    AFSC bird dogs got Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders to publicly critique a trillion-dollar upgrade of our nuclear arsenal.
  • Woman speaks with man in suit, young man behind holds book.
    Eva Castillo of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees questions Marco Rubio at a Manchester bookstore. Other bird dogs got him to denounce Pentagon spending.
  • Two men stand in a crowd with a banner to their side.
    AFSC staffers Kevin Rutledge and Hector Salamanca worked an early Bernie Sanders event in Ames, Iowa. Photo: Jon Krieg
  • Bernie Sanders stands at a podium, gesturing, with seated audience behind.
    GUI banners welcomed 800 people from Iowa and the Midwest at a CCI forum where Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley took questions from bird dogs. Photo: Jon Krieg