Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 28, 2014

Pollster Alan Secrest Going Out of Business

Updated 6:48 p.m. | A well-known Democratic pollster alerted his clients last week that he is going out of business — less than five months before Election Day.

“Our financial circumstances have left us no choice but to discontinue this work and close our business,” Alan Secrest wrote Thursday in an email to clients. “It has been our pleasure to serve you, and I wish we could continue. But we cannot.”

It’s highly unusual for a pollster from any party to close down shop, especially so close to an election. During the course of his decades-long career, Secrest’s clients included Democrats from all ends of the ideological spectrum, including hundreds of Congressional races around the country.

Offering his apologies, Secrest explained that he cannot offer refunds to his current clients.

“All remaining funds have gone to taxes, salaries, bills and there are simply no assets available with which to continue to operate,” he said. “Certainly this is not the path we would have chosen, but that is the most straight forward assessment of our circumstance.”


This cycle, Secrest worked with Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.), who lost his primary in April, former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D), seeking a seat in Ohio, state Rep. Scott Reske’s bid for Indiana’s 5th district and attorney Sharen Neuhardt’s bid in Ohio’s 10th district.

“I paid for everything he provided and my contract had been fulfilled,” Wilson said in a brief phone interview Friday. “I fully intended to stay with him for the election cycle. I might also add he was very good at what he did.”

In political lore, Secrest is perhaps best known as the recipient of a dead fish from former Rep. Rahm Emanuel.

In 1988, the current Chicago mayor was a staffer at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Secrest polled House races. The two had a contentious relationship during the cycle — in no small part because Emanuel served on the board of a competing polling firm.

“There were also issues of style, which will not surprise anyone who knows us, as each of us is a passionate advocate for his position,” Secrest wrote in an email.

The two operatives conflicted over specific surveys, after which Secrest went over Emanuel’s head. That move proved to be the last straw for the future Congressman.

After Election Day, Secrest received a long, thin, white box tied with a black ribbon. Inside, there was a smelly, dead fish.

“It’s been horrible working with you,” read the card from Emanuel.

Among high-profile Democrats, Secrest said he’s worked with the late Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D-N.Y.), Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). He consulted on gubernatorial races for now-Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and former Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.).

In addition to the email to his clients, Secrest offered some more explanation about why he’s shutting down so close to the elections.

“In the end, the financial requirements to produce the quality research product we believe in, as well as a wide range of marketplace exigencies, left us unable to continue this work,” he wrote to Roll Call.

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