It’s 12 years later, and Democrats still are bemoaning the 537-vote victory for George W. Bush in the 2000 Florida race, contending Al Gore was robbed of the Oval Office.
Just this week, for example, Wisconsin State Rep. Leon D. Young wrote, “Back in 2000, George W literally stole the White House amid the ‘hanging chad’ controversy in Florida and the subsequent refusal by the U.S. Supreme Court to get involved in resolving the dispute.”
But the complaints emphasize the importance of every single vote. So, just imagine the popularity of a plan that could pinpoint votes critical to the outcome of an election.
That, approximately, is a product designed and assembled by onetime Bill Clinton hatchet-man Harold Ickes in his Catalist LLC, a “state-of-the-art data firm that services … every would-be Democrat officeholder who can afford it,” according to a new report.
The report is from Neil Maghami for the Capital Research Center, whose editor, Mathew Vadum, remembers Dick Morris’ description of Ickes during the Clinton era.
“Whenever there was something that [Bill Clinton] thought required ruthlessness or vengeance or sharp elbows and sharp knees or, frankly, skullduggery, he would give it to Harold,” Morris said.
The CRC report explains that Catalist is the latest in high-tech applications of traditional get-out-the-vote campaigns, refined as a “get-out-the-CORRECT-vote” effort.
“Catalist boasts it was vital to President Obama’s 2008 victory. By its own admission, ‘over 90 organizations, campaigns and committees’ used the company’s services,” the CRC report explains. It notes Catalist itself claims that its “organizations” attempted to contact more than 106 million during the 2008 election cycle.
But more than contacting many people, it focuses on servicing organizations that want to contact the correct people – those few, like the 537 in Florida, who would, by voting differently, change an outcome.
According to the report, “In the 2008 cycle, Catalist provided data services to [Service Employees International Union]. This means, for example, that as SEIU collected voter ID information from its voter contact list work, the union updated the information gathered to a Catalist database. Catalist, in turn, helped SEIU analyze this data so that the union could better focus its outreach efforts.”
It continued: “In its internal analysis of its 2008 work, SEIU uses the example of Indiana to show how Catalist helped SEIU concentrate its energies and boost voter turnout for Obama. Using Catalist’s breakdown of voter information and projection of voter behavior, SEIU concentrated on ‘infrequent Democratic voters’ and ‘African American and Latino voters,’ particularly in two key congressional districts.”
The CRC report says SEIU believes the effort made a difference, because it noted: “In a state [Indiana] where Obama won by only 25,836 votes, our work in Lake County made a difference. There were 23,000 more Democratic votes in 2008 than in 2004, combined with 4,000 fewer Republican voters.”
The CRC report identifies the strategy as “microtargeting.”
Stephen Baker of The Numerati identified it like this: “The party that pinpoints a few thousand individual voters here and there could come out on top.”
“One of the best definitions of microtargeting appears in ‘[Dancing without Partners: How Candidates, Parties and Interest Groups Interact in the Presidential Campaign," said the CRC report. It quotes the publication as saying: "Microtargeting combines voter registration information (some demographics, party registration, voter history) with data collected through large surveys seeking to identify likely supporters [of a candidate]. This additional information includes demographic information such as marital status, number of children, religious affiliation, and religious observance. Policy views on topics likely to impact voting behavior are also included in such surveys. Together, the combined database allows parties and interest groups to microtarget specific audiences.”
CRC reported that the Nathan Cummings Foundation already has divided the U.S. voting population into 15 groups, identifying five as being “most closely aligned with the Democratic Party.”
The groups are “Engaged Optimists,” “Adamant Activists,” “Fast Lane Progressives,” “Marginalized Fatalists” and “Hopeless Dreamers,” the report said.
“This approach creates an incentive for competing candidates to stop appealing to the general public (or average voter, if you like), and instead take more of a single issue approach,” CRC said. “MoveOn’s Eli Pariser has written, ‘if a congressional campaign can determine [which issue is] most likely to persuade me, why bother filling me in on all the other issues?’”
“For the Democratic Party, this increases the value of interest groups, whether they are unions, churches, or nonprofit groups active on issues like the environment or abortion,” CRC said.
The report said far-left billionaire George Soros funded the organization with $1 million seed money, and the “shadowy Tides Foundation” has moved money to the group.
High-profile clients of the group include the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters’ Education Fund, the National Abortion Rights League and Planned Parenthood, CRC reported.
“Although not a Catalist client per se, the U.S. Justice Department has a link to the company worth noting. In March, the department ruled that a Texas law requiring voters to show a state ID card violated federal law. Justice’s lawyers claimed the state law effectively disenfranchised Hispanic voters. A court battle between Justice and the state government ensued,” CRC reported.
During that battle, a letter from Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that Justice hired Catalist “to provide the data by which it is justifying its decision to block implementation of Texas’ voter identification law.”
Catalist itself boasts that it intends to “provide progressive organizations with the data and services needed to better identify, understand, and communicate with the people they need to persuade and mobilize.”
The CRC report went to Richard A. Viguerie, political direct mail pioneer and chairman of American Target Advertising, for an assessment of the new ideas.
“We are talking about something very powerful here, the ‘sleeping giant’ of political marketing, if you will. We’re talking about a form of political marketing that, with the right list, for example, allows you to target a strong message to registered independent/undecided voters – instead of hit-or-miss approaches, like TV commercials or radio spots.”