The ghosts in the machine
The Koch brothers and their allies are pumping tens of millions of dollars into a data company that’s developing detailed, state-of-the-art profiles of 250 million Americans, giving the brothers’ political operation all the earmarks of a national party.
The move comes as mainstream Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, are trying to reclaim control of the conservative movement from outside groups. The Kochs, however, are continuing to amass all of the campaign tools the Republican National Committee and other party arms use to elect a president.
The Koch network also has developed in-house expertise in polling, message-testing, fact-checking, advertising, media buying, dial groups and donor maintenance. Add mastery of election law, a corporate-minded aggressiveness and years of patient experimentation — plus seemingly limitless cash — and the Koch operation actually exceeds the RNC’s data operation in many important respects.
Billed as the biggest non-party agitprop brigade in the United States, the Koch Bros have decided decades of brainwashing about the glorious two-party system requires them – easily enough – to take over the Republican Party.
The least-known vehicle for the Kochs is a for-profit company known as i360, started by a former adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign after McCain lost to Barack Obama in 2008. Subsequently, it merged with a Koch-funded data nonprofit. The Koch-affiliated Freedom Partners, formed in late 2011, eventually became an investor, officials confirmed to POLITICO.
Spending more than $50 million in cash over the past four years, i360 links voter information with consumer data purchased from credit bureaus and other vendors. Information from social networks is blended in, along with any interaction the voter may have had with affiliated campaigns and advocacy groups. Then come estimated income, recent addresses, how often a person has voted, and even the brand of car they drive. Another i360 service slices and dices information about TV viewing to help campaigns target ads more precisely and cost efficiently.
GOP campaigns can get less-expensive data through the RNC, but happily pay i360 for its superior profiles. Midterm clients included several of the GOP’s marquee Senate and gubernatorial victors, including Sens.-elect Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Joni Ernst of Iowa, and Gov.-elect Larry Hogan in Maryland…
Palmer said i360 embeds experiments “into absolutely everything that we do.” In Colorado, for instance, Americans for Prosperity — the most muscular part of the Koch network — worked with i360 to isolate 297,000 voters who were not likely to vote in 2014, but were likely to oppose the policies of Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who wound up being defeated by GOP Rep. Cory Gardner.
Among the 297,000 voters, some got no contact at all from AFP. About 60,000 voters were broken into six “treatment groups”: One group got a knock on the door, plus a volunteer phone call and a mail piece. Another got door plus mail. Another got door only, and so forth. Within those groups, the messages varied. Now, as part of its midterm after-action review, i360 is figuring out which approach was most efficient in turning out a reluctant voter.
RTFA for all the delightful details. You, too, will be a datapoint if the Koch Bros think they can find an issue or two to twist your “independent” choice for elective office over these next two years.
After decades of brainwashing that advertising is really helping you find what you need for a better life, the Koch Bros and the Republican Party may just convince Americans that being a lemming in a cute little white suit is better than all those other sizes, shapes and colors. Or thinking for yourself.
Some day in the not-to-distant future we might look back at this Koch Bros venture and reflect that history’s next Joseph Goebbels turned out to be a Geek.
Overdue? You betcha. American politicians always make very political decisions.
I can tell you from personal experience that Hillary has supported equal civil rights for all Americans through all of her adult career in law – and in politics. But, the latter quality was lived as a Democratic politician – earlier times were only bounded by her views on constitutional law.
Now that it seems likely she’ll be campaigning for the presidency in 2016, it’s central to that task that she rely on the progressive wing of the Democrat Party – and progressives and independents outside that party. Just as did Barack Obama. Would she be as conservative a president as Obama? On foreign policy – probably yes. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for a major swing of the mainstream of Democrats into serious work for peace. On domestic policy – probably no. I think she understands the needs of working folks, is less divorced from the roots of American labor than Obama or the hierarchy of the Democrat power structure.
These are trends that differentiate Democratic politicians from Republicans. They ain’t earthshaking differences; but, especially on questions of equal opportunity and civil rights – they make all the difference in the world.
Illustration by Matt Wuerker
After a hard-fought election campaign, costing well in excess of $2 billion, it seems to many observers that not much has changed in American politics: Barack Obama is still President, the Republicans still control the House of Representatives, and the Democrats still have a majority in the Senate. With America facing a “fiscal cliff” – automatic tax increases and spending cuts at the start of 2013 that will most likely drive the economy into recession unless bipartisan agreement on an alternative fiscal path is reached – could there be anything worse than continued political gridlock?
In fact, the election had several salutary effects – beyond showing that unbridled corporate spending could not buy an election, and that demographic changes in the United States may doom Republican extremism. The Republicans’ explicit campaign of disenfranchisement in some states – like Pennsylvania, where they tried to make it more difficult for African-Americans and Latinos to register to vote – backfired: those whose rights were threatened were motivated to turn out and exercise them. In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor and tireless warrior for reforms to protect ordinary citizens from banks’ abusive practices, won a seat in the Senate…
The Republicans should not have been caught off-guard by Americans’ interest in issues like disenfranchisement and gender equality. While these issues strike at the core of a country’s values – of what we mean by democracy and limits on government intrusion into individuals’ lives – they are also economic issues. As I explain in my book The Price of Inequality, much of the rise in US economic inequality is attributable to a government in which the rich have disproportionate influence – and use that influence to entrench themselves. Obviously, issues like reproductive rights and gay marriage have large economic consequences as well…
…Here is what Americans should hope for: a strong “jobs” bill – based on investments in education, health care, technology, and infrastructure – that would stimulate the economy, restore growth, reduce unemployment, and generate tax revenues far in excess of its costs, thus improving the country’s fiscal position. They might also hope for a housing program that finally addresses America’s foreclosure crisis…
America – and the world – would also benefit from a US energy policy that reduces reliance on imports not just by increasing domestic production, but also by cutting consumption, and that recognizes the risks posed by global warming. Moreover, America’s science and technology policy must reflect an understanding that long-term increases in living standards depend upon productivity growth, which reflects technological progress that assumes a solid foundation of basic research…
Americans should hope for all of this, though I am not sanguine that they will get much of it.& More likely, America will muddle through – here another little program for struggling students and homeowners, there the end of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires, but no wholesale tax reform, serious cutbacks in defense spending, or significant progress on global warming.
With the euro crisis likely to continue unabated, America’s continuing malaise does not bode well for global growth. Even worse, in the absence of strong American leadership, longstanding global problems – from climate change to urgently needed reforms of the international monetary system – will continue to fester. Nonetheless, we should be grateful: it is better to be standing still than it is to be heading in the wrong direction.
Optimist that I am – still as cynical as Joe Stiglitz the author of this piece – we have 2014 and 2016 to look forward to. Americans may just be bright enough, confident enough, to push the House back to solid enough Democrat control at the mid-term to enable progressive legislation to be funded. I expect no miracles from our voters or elected officials – but, I think we’ll have the market on our side.
At this moment, I’m confident in Hillary running in 2016 – and her added experience in foreign policy [as tawdry as that has continued to be] better equips her for the battles for the presidency.
Should be fun. We may get a little further along the road to solvency and modernity.
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission
Did Chicago lose the chance to host the 2016 Olympics because of airport security issues?
Among the toughest questions posed to the Chicago bid team this week in Copenhagen was one that raised the issue of what kind of welcome foreigners would get from airport officials when they arrived in this country to attend the Games. Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, in the question-and-answer session following Chicago’s official presentation, pointed out that entering the United States can be “a rather harrowing experience.”
That’s putting it politely.
Mr. Obama’s assurances may have not been enough to assuage critics like Mr. Ali. A few hours later the Games went to Rio de Janiero.
The exchange underscores what tourism officials here have been saying for years about the sometimes rigorous entry process for foreigners, which they see as a deterrent to tourism. Once the news came out that Chicago lost its Olympic bid, the U.S. Travel Association didn’t miss an opportunity to point that out, sending out a critical press release within hours.
“It’s clear the United States still has a lot of work to do to restore its place as a premier travel destination,” Roger Dow, U.S. Travel’s president, said in the statement released today. “When IOC members are commenting to our President that foreign visitors find traveling to the United States a ‘pretty harrowing experience,’ we need to take seriously the challenge of reforming our entry process to ensure there is a welcome mat to our friends around the world, even as we ensure a secure system.”
The blogosphere is filled daily with predictable examples of innocent people being harassed at some port of entry. Yet, GAO inspectors move imitation bombs through our airports whenever they feel like it.
The disaster called TSA runs the gamut from underpaid, underqualified and incompetent to poorly trained. They are there to satisfy a paranoia which has lasted among politicians much longer than the populace in general. Real security systems needn’t be run like the Toonerville Trolley.
Thanks, Uncle Dave