An organization named Tech for Campaigns and based in Silicon Valley has a new mission — get Democrats elected.
Silicon Valley firm Tech for Campaigns has one primary aim — improve the Democrats’ online game and get them elected to government. The firm is described by the New York Times as a kind of “Democratic Geek Squad” which is comprised of roughly 4,500 tech workers who work day jobs at major Silicon Valley tech firms such as Google, Facebook, Airbnb, and Netflix. The group was founded by tech executive Jessica Alter who hopes to convince Democrat politicians that they need to massively improve their online campaigns.
“What’s at stake if we don’t build a true centralized digital arm is falling further behind the Republicans and continuing to lose ground, the battles on key issues and elections at every level,” Alter told the New York Times. “If we don’t start now, it will be too late in 2020.”
Alter stated that the group’s biggest task is convincing candidates that social media is one of the most effective campaign platforms. According to recent reports, Democrat party candidates are relying heavily on TV ads and printed mailers. Some Democrats are spending as little as 10 percent of their ad budgets on online advertising while some Republicans are reportedly investing more than 40 percent of their budgets into digital marketing.
Tech for Campaigns has reportedly advised Democratic candidates in approximately 60 races since it was founded, working with candidates such as Justin Nelson who is currently running for attorney general in Texas and Rob Quist who was defeated in a special congressional election in Montana in 2017. Tech for Campaigns plans to work with 200 campaigns by the end of the year, focusing mainly on state-level candidates, who generally do not have the budget to hire a digital marketing team.“We do a lot of things that digital consultants don’t,” Alter said. “The most common question we get asked is, ‘What’s the catch?’”
Alter was surprised at how few Democrats had successfully managed to enter the online world, stating that in state-level races Democrats have been vastly outmatched by Republican rivals in terms of digital outreach. “People don’t understand how not far along we are as a party,” Ms. Alter said. “Obama was really good at tech, but it never trickled down to a Senate race, let alone the state-level stuff.”
Tech for Campaigns now has 4,500 volunteers and raised $100,000 in a crowdfunding campaign which allowed it to move into an office in downtown San Francisco, right in the heart of Silicon Valley. One volunteer, Nick Hobbs, heard about Tech for Campaign while working at Google and decided to use his spare time to volunteer at the firm: “Instead of coming home and watching Netflix, we come home and go to work,” said Hobbs. Currently, Hobbs is working on a redesign of the website of Elizabeth Thomson, a Democrat running in the 24th district of New Mexico.
Chris Hurst, a newcomer politician who was recently elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates in November, worked with Tech for Campaigns during the election cycle. Hurst’s campaign manager Andrew Whitley commented on the group saying: “I know, 100 percent, that they made a difference in our campaign. I was very surprised these Silicon Valley folks were willing to donate their time like that.”