A frequently asked question on the Federal Reserve’s website is the query of what exactly it means for the Federal Reserve to be an “independent government agency.” According to the official site itself, the “Fed” is structured in a way to remain apolitical so that its monetary policy decisions “do not become subject to political pressures that could lead to undesirable outcomes.” Theoretically, the Fed should not be incorporating partisan politics into its own agenda of raising or lowering interest rates. This idealistic goal is far from the reality.

In fact, the Fed has become increasingly politically-charged, deviating from this goal. In 2016, the United States has experienced a growth in the partisan polarization around the country, which largely results from the upcoming Presidential election. The result of this election has implications not only for social issues and national security, but also for the nation’s economy.

The markets must be ready for either Clinton or Trump to take Obama’s place; that is, the markets must adjust their prices according to how investors believe the new president’s policies will impact domestic and international economic growth. Being ready for the economic future, however, is very difficult to do with two polarizing candidates such as Clinton and Trump. Investors’ outlooks for certain companies will certainly change depending on who America chooses as the next President. Mary Ann Bartels, the head of Merrill Lynch’s Wealth Management Portfolio Strategy explains that if there is “one thing markets hate, it’s uncertainty.” As such, the markets will most likely be incredibly volatile in the weeks leading up to and directly after Election Day, as it is every four years during a presidential election.

Given all these considerations, this presidential election has prevented the Fed from implementing a course of monetary policy independent from politics. Given the Fed’s apolitical nature, the members of the agency try to avoid choosing their policies based on whichever political party wins the Presidency. This attempt at remaining neutral actually creates another political decision that prevents the Fed from ever raising interest rates close to the election.

Every year, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Fed meets during September and November. According to MarketWatch columnist Mark Hulbert, the Fed has raised interest rates during September and November before Presidential elections only once since 1990, which was in September 2004. The 1990s being the years during which the FOMC began to publicly announce their monetary policy target interest rates.

The reason that it is so rare for the FOMC to raise its interest rate target around a Presidential Election is an inherently political one. When the FOMC raises interest rates, markets typically slow down. Higher interest rates make it more expensive for investors to acquire credit from banks, which decreases investment activity. Since the Fed is supposed to be apolitical, it will try to avoid picking political sides when the election rolls around. If it were to hypothetically raise rates if the Democratic nominee wins, its policy would slow the economy, and Democrats may accuse the Fed of playing politics and trying to make the Democrats look bad after the election (vice-versa for the Republicans). As a result of Washington’s politics, the Fed has been under pressure to avoid tightening monetary policy by raising rates.

Outside of the Election, one of the main points of discussion with regards to the Fed revolves around “Audit the Fed” movement. While the Fed already conducts its own audit, proponents for this “Audit the Fed” movement demand that more information be released. Some believe that Congress should have the power to choose the auditor. Norman Singleton, president of the Campaign for Liberty, explains how the Fed’s current audit is only “a financial audit” that “doesn’t really give you a full glimpse of the Fed’s conduct of monetary policy.”

With such distrust of the Fed in Congress, the Fed may be more reluctant to change its monetary policy course. If interest rates rise, Fed officials would undoubtedly come under fire for slowing the markets down and have to justify to political figures their reasons for doing so. While the Fed’s increased accountability certainly has its merits, Jeff Cox explains how “opponents of the ‘Audit the Fed’ movement believe the ultimate consequence will be to remove the Fed’s independence from political pressure.” For better or for worse, if the Fed were increasingly held accountable for its policy course by Congress, political independence becomes unlikely.

In addition, ever since the 2008 market crash, FOMC members have attempted to be more transparent with the public over its monetary policy decisions. These transparency measures include more public speeches by FOMC members, transcripts of these speeches, and increased media coverage of individual members. While this allows the Fed officials to more clearly communicate their rationale behind their policy, it also serves as an outlet for Fed officials to say politically-charged statements and to publicly disagree with the ideology of their colleagues.

For example, the Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, was recently asked a question at her September 21 press conference about income inequality and the middle-class. She responded by emphasizing her prioritization of income growth and of creating better paying jobs “throughout the income distribution.” Critics of Yellen may interpret her answer as being politically liberal. One of the main pillars of the Democratic economic platform is decreasing income inequality, and it seems Yellen aligns with the Democrats on this issue. Some critics may even point at how Yellen was appointed as the Fed Chair by a Democratic President (Obama) as a reason to be wary of her political bias. Supporters of Yellen may emphasize her commitment to a data-dependent approach as proof of her non-partisanship, but there still is a loud clamor on the other side amongst Yellen critics about her supposed political bias.

While it may be questionable whether Yellen was being openly political in her statements, the reality is that increased media exposure of FOMC members allows the media to force officials to answer political questions and contort their words into having a political connotation. Current Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari compared recent media coverage of the Fed to that of shark attacks. What Kashkari means, explains Greg Robb of MarketWatch, is that the media provides “a lot more hype than fact.” Today’s sensationalist media inherently puts the Fed at risk to seem partisan rather than independent.

It seems that this agency, which claims to be self structuring in a way to remain apolitical, is now overwrought with pressures on both sides of the aisle. Recently, Lael Brainard, a Governor of the FOMC, has given donations to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. As explained by Craig Torres of Bloomberg, Brainard gave “$750 in three contributions to Clinton’s campaign between November and January.” Perhaps Brainard’s donations tangibly show how politics has creeped its way into the world of the Fed and monetary policy. Perhaps we are seeing the Fed’s monetary policy start to fuse with the federal government’s fiscal policy. Perhaps we are seeing the complete death of independent bureaucracy as we know it. Or perhaps the Fed may simply need a quick refresher by looking up the FAQ on its official website about political independence.

There was no shortage of hotly contested political races in the 2012 election. Ranging from the historic presidential election down to the regional races, the 2012 political campaigns certainly had their hands full.

Of the handful of battleground states that play a key role in the presidential elections, Nevada has certainly demonstrated that title. In 2000 and 2004 the presidential polls showed Republican victories, but in 2008 and in 2012, the state began to lean Democrat. Particularly in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes Eastern and Northwestern Las Vegas and Henderson, the race between Republicans and Democrats has been fierce. In 2008, incumbent Rep. Jon Porter (R) was ousted by Dina Titus (D), who was then defeated in 2010 by Joe Heck(R) by a margin of 0.6%. In 2012, the Joe Heck campaign, headed by Mark Ciavola, managed to pull a victory by a margin of over 7%.

This article presents an interview with Mr. Ciavola to discuss his campaign strategies and how they factored into the 2012 Republican victory in Nevada’s 3rd congressional district. Mark Ciavola is the campaign manager for  Heck, and oversaw the 2010 and the 2012 campaigns, both of which ended in Republican victory. He is also the chairman of the College Republican Federation of Nevada and the student body president of University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is the founder of Right Pride, a conservative organization which spreads the message of limited government and the free market throughout the gay community.

Dartmouth Business Journal (DBJ): What were your initial thoughts coming into this campaign?

Mark Ciavola (MC): Well, let me give you a little background. In 2010, we did only win by 0.6%, but it’s important to know that the Democrats actually had a 26,000 voter advantage, versus a 7,000 voter advantage this time, and so it was actually a much more favorable district this time (There are currently 335,413 active registered voters in District 3.) The fact that Congressman Heck won in 2010, given a sizeable Democratic voter edge, really was a testament to how hard the campaign worked then and how hard Congressman Heck worked then, because again 26,000 votes is a lot to overcome. This time around, with 7,000, we thought we would be in a very good position to be able to do well regardless of how well President Obama did or Governor Romney did. But we knew that it would come down to grassroots and counting every single vote and making sure we turn out as many Republicans as possible. I never doubted for a minute that we would win, and I think that most of us on the campaign felt that we would not have a problem winning by 3 to 5 points.

DBJ: So during the campaign, what was your strategy to get those necessary votes?

MC: Well, the first strategy is the standard, which is to contact voters. We wanted to make as many phone calls and door knocks as possible. We actually made over half a million phone calls and a quarter million door knocks. When you’re able to contact 750,000 voters, you’re putting yourself in a good position, and that was part of it. We also knew that we didn’t have the budget to hire a lot of staff, so we made an aggressive attempt to get as many interns as we possibly could. As it turned out, we had 29 interns in total and really, without the interns, we wouldn’t have been able to do the voter contact that we ended up doing. And then, for the “get out the vote” in the general [election] during early voting, we implemented a grassroots strategy that actually put together 140 volunteers who adopted their own neighborhoods and focused on getting out around 100 voters that lived near them. By doing that, here we are in a district with a 7,000 Democrat advantage, and we actually won early voting by 12,500 votes.

DBJ: As the campaign manager for Joe Heck, what do you feel was your greatest strength, and how did you use that to your advantage?

MC: Our greatest strength was undoubtedly our candidate. Congressman Heck is a great guy, he works hard, and he knows the issues. He’s probably the most accessible politician in Nevada. He also has a résumé that perfectly matches the issues our country is facing. Obviously, the economy, jobs; he’s a former small business owner. Health care is a huge issue right now, and he’s a doctor. He’s a former educator, and education is a huge issue. [Another issue is] being able to work in Washington and get legislative priorities accomplished, and he’s a former legislator. And of course national security and the wars we are fighting. He’s got a 25 year career in the military. His résumé perfectly aligns with everything that’s going on. Plus, we went out of our way to make sure that he was out at as many events as possible, meeting as many voters as possible, speaking with various groups, grassroots organizations, coalition-type groups. When you have a candidate that good, you want to get him out.

DBJ: What was your greatest difficulty during the campaign, and how did you overcome it?

MC: The greatest difficulty was overcoming the narrative that Democrats put forward: that Republicans are rich, white racists engaging in the “War on Women.” I feel that we were able to overcome it by focusing on getting our message out to those groups, forming strong coalitions like Women for Heck, Unidos con Heck, and being firm in confronting the blatantly false statements made by our opponent.

DBJ: Though your campaign was highly successful, is there anything you would have done differently?

MC: Well, I try not to be results-oriented, because obviously when you win, you like to think you wouldn’t change a thing. There are always things we can improve on. I think that we could have had a stronger social media presence. I think we could have maybe better anticipated our voter contact needs so that we would have a system in place that could handle what we did. Toward the end, we were running out of phones and running out of ways for people to help. You want to make sure that you can do more if you can. Honestly, I think went very well. I think we were fortunate in a lot of areas. I think that we avoided a lot of big mistakes. The staff worked tremendously hard, Tom [McAllister] and Ken [Minster] were amazing. The interns were great, from the ones who left us in August to the ones who stayed right through the end. Our volunteers were great. We were the #2 Republican victory office in the country. I think that it’s really hard to pinpoint some things, certainly nothing major. I mean we pretty much did it by the book and avoided those big mistakes.

DBJ: So as the number two Republican victory office, what lessons does your campaign’s success have to offer to other campaigns that maybe weren’t so successful?

MC: Well, I think that first and foremost, it starts in the neighborhoods, and I think that we can’t forget that. We can do as many neighborhood walks as we want, but unless the person that’s doing those walks lives in that neighborhood and is following up with those people, I’m not sure it’s any more effective than sending them a mail piece, which does work, but knocking on doors is supposed to be more personal. I think that you really have to be able to have a good grasp on your database. I think you need to know where your voters are. We targeted 50 precincts where our voters are, and that’s who we turned out. When Clark County turns out to early voting at 57%, but our voters turn out at 75%, that makes all the difference in the world. I think that if you have that neighborhood focus with actual precinct and block captains–or the way we did it, with a giant volunteer troop that were assigned their neighborhoods– it becomes more personal, there’s more accountability. You have more touches because that person can visit that house five or six times during the election cycle, and certainly make sure that each individual person that they’ve identified as being a Republican voter or someone who is voting Republican actually gets out to vote. And I think that’s incredibly important because we don’t have phone numbers for everyone, but we do have addresses. If we can maximize those efforts, then we win the ground game. And for a long time the Democrats have won the ground game, and that’s where their strength is. We have got to beat them where their strengths lie.

DBJ: Do you have any final thoughts?

MC: In 2010, we won when the Harry Reid (D) and Sharron Angle (R) race didn’t go Republican, and this year we won when the Presidential race didn’t go Republican. Look back at how things have come down, I have to say there is a direct correlation between how hard the campaigns are working, how hard they are dedicated to success, and the outcome of the election. What I’ve witnessed on two Joe Heck campaigns is hundreds of people who have given their blood, sweat, and tears every minute of the day. And that’s what you need to have a winning team. You’ve got to fill it winners, and we’ve been very fortunate to have been able to do that.