People for Ford (PFF) was the volunteer arm of the President Ford Committee formed during the general election to develop outreach efforts to special voter groups. Directed by long-time Republican National Committee activist Elly Peterson, the PFF staff targeted women, African-Americans, professional groups, ethnics, farmers, Jews, senior citizens, and young people for particular attention.
Chairman Rogers Morton named Peterson deputy chairman of the nascent volunteer organization in June 1976. Until then, Edward DeBolt, a counsellor in the PFC chairman's office, and Robert Marik, deputy chairman for administration, directed efforts to develop support among particular voter groups, especially African-Americans and Hispanics. Peterson took the lead in coordinating the Committee's appeals to these groups, in addition to the others mentioned above, during the post-convention campaign.
Constricted by spending limits imposed by the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1974, the People for Ford organization struggled throughout its brief existence to stretch minimal funds. In stark contrast to the high spending levels of various volunteer operations during President Nixon's 1972 reelection campaign, the Ford volunteer operation consisted largely of small phone banks, motor caravans and rallies, advocate appearances, literature drops, and small-scale targeted advertising. Activities of broad-based grassroots organizations are not reflected in these files; rather, the collection documents top-down efforts of outreach and information dispersal.
The People for Ford organization was fluid and somewhat informal. Desk directors, appointed by Peterson, were fairly autonomous in drafting their respective appeal strategies. However, no desk could function independently and the individual desk directors submitted proposals and information to one of Peterson's three deputies: administration director Thomas Ruffin, special consultant Robert Keyes, or advocacy/press consultant Jim DeFrancis. Ruffin, Keyes, and DeFrancis all reported directly to Peterson. The regional effort consisted of state volunteer organizations, coordinated by five regional directors who reported to regional coordinator Pamela Curtis. Curtis reported regularly to Peterson concerning state and regional activities. (See Attachment 1.)
Files for the individual desks appear to be more complete than those of the PFF administrative staff. For example, the activities of Elly Peterson are partially documented in the Ruffin and Curtis files. Peterson donated the bulk of her Ford campaign material to the Michigan Historical Collections at the University of Michigan. Her files housed there include the bulk of extant information on the Women's Desk, although Curtis' records document a mailing program targeting women voters and folders on selected women's issues. Also missing from the PFF records at the Ford Library are files for the Labor Desk, the Special Events Desk, and PFF administrators Jim DeFrancis and Betsey Bellows.
The People for Ford files are unique in that they document a viewpoint not often seen in organizational records: that of minorities and special interest groups. Researchers can determine the PFC's priorities from the emphasis given to each desk in terms of both autonomy and funds; as well as gauge which voter groups the PFC perceived as significant and worth targeting. The major strength of this collection is the wealth of information on the concerns of special voter groups; letters both of support and of complaint provide insight into the social climate of the 1970s.
Related Materials (as of January 1992):
The files of Edward DeBolt, counsellor to the chairman, and Robert Marik, deputy chairman for administration, document PFC appeals to selected special voter groups during the primary campaign period. The Elly M. Peterson Papers at the Michigan Historical Collections at the University of Michigan include one large series of People for Ford administrative records, including regional reports, correspondence, and internal PFC and PFF memoranda.