RNC Still Lagging in 'Big Data' Race

RNC Still Lagging in 'Big Data' Race

Though the Republican National Committee has touted its progress in technological advances with analytics and micro-targeting tools after getting trounced by Democrats in 2012, its state-of-the-art tool to target and find voters is not yet operational and may not be until 2016.

That has frustrated local campaigns and party committees that need to find voters and win now, especially because the RNC is trying to centralize the system without having the capabilities to do so, according to a report in The Huffington Post. 

In addition, the vendor that runs the system the RNC currently uses for finding voters is the same firm, FLS Connect, that reaped millions in fees from the RNC and Mitt Romney’s campaign during the 2012 election cycle that produced less-than-ideal results. 

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus hailed the RNC’s technological successes after Republican David Jolly won a special election in FL-13, hired a former Facebook engineer and other data wizards and digital chiefs, and has hyped a new “voter relationship management (VRM) system called ‘Beacon.'” However, according to the report, “Beacon will continue to operate largely in beta mode throughout the 2014 midterm cycle” and is not fully operable as of now. 

As The Huffington Post notes, “if Beacon had been operational in the Florida special election, Republicans could have used it to go in to the RNC voter file and find voters in that congressional district with a high propensity for voting Republican, but who did not have a track record of voting in special elections or even non-presidential elections.” 

Those lists would have been sent to volunteers on the ground, who would have received the data on their mobile apps that would have included “directions to the targeted homes and an individually tailored script to read at the door (or over the phone).” The volunteers would have been able to “upload the response they received back into the application, feeding it directly back into the RNC voter file.” Democrats have had a similar program for years. 

Local Republican groups did not want to wait for the RNC and have for years been using similar systems, like one called “i360” owned by a subsidiary of the Koch brothers, to find voters and get a head start. 

Republican organizations, state parties, and top House and Senate candidates are using other systems like i360 because they cannot wait for the RNC. The RNC, though, may be discouraging campaigns from using independent tools and programs because they do not want those systems to essentially get free data from volunteers and workers whom the RNC is often paying. 

To make matters worse, the RNC is using a program called Data Center, which was built by FLS Connect, that has its share of problems and limits “the ability of outside users to tap into the resources available in the RNC’s voter file, thus limiting the ability of the RNC to continually update and refine that same file.”

Breitbart News reported that Federal Election Commission reports filed by the Republican National Committee revealed “that one-third of the $59.3 million it spent directly with vendors in the last five weeks of the election was paid to one telemarketing firm, FLS Connect, LLC.” in 2012. Breitbart News also reported during the 2012 election cycle that “one prominent figure at the Romney campaign – Political Director Rich Beeson – and one prominent figure at the RNC – Chief of Staff Jeff Larson – were both until recently partners at FLS Connect, LLC.”