In 2008, Barack Obama employed one of the most effective ground games in electoral history, using a data program called VoteBuilder. VoteBuilder allows campaigns complete control over their data for as long as that campaign decides to essentially lease a license. This program keeps the data fresh and current. The original designer, Steve Adler, of this software had a falling out with his partner, Mark Sullivan, but retained control over his program. After five years, Mr. Adler opened up this software to the Republican Party in the form of RVotes. If Republicans wanted it, they could have used the same successful software that propelled Barack Obama to the presidency.
Adler went on to co-found Voter Activation Network, Inc., with business partner and talented political strategist, Mark Sullivan in 2001. Voter Activation Network, Inc., (now NGPVAN) is now the largest political software company in the world. It is the very foundation of all Democrat campaign efforts in most English speaking countries. Adler sold his half of the company in 2005, and after a 5 year non-compete has rolled out his improved, rVotes, with the hopes to help level the playing field for those being beaten by his former creation. rvotes
However, the Republican Party seems to believe that this software is dangerous. For example, Congressman Dave Brat used RVotes as his data platform in his successful primary over then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The RNC does not seem to like the idea of candidates owning their own data, or underdogs using RVotes to unseat unpopular GOP elected staples. Instead, the RNC has chosen to use I360 and Nationbuilder. Licenses for I360 are often owned by Leadership who then give access to delegates or state senators for their campaign. Speaker Bill Howell, in Virginia, I am told, owns a license for I360 which he allows Republican Delegates to access, except the delegates don’t own their own data – Speaker Howell does. If true, this means that if Speaker Howell ever wanted to run someone against a delegate who may have stepped off the reservation, he could easily use the data that delegate’s campaign collected to unseat them.
Furthermore, I360 is owned, I’m told, by the Koch Brothers. Interestingly, the appeal of I360 is that it is “free”. Why would one of the most successful arbiters of capitalism give their software away for free? The answer is, because they are the ultimate owners of all the data the Republican Party and the Republican Campaigns collect through I360. Of course it’s free – Republicans are working around the clock to provide the Koch’s with one of the largest voter data lists in the nation… for free.
Interestingly, there has been a few so-called conservatives complaining about RVotes – which is strange, unless what they are really after is protecting leadership’s control over all of the state data. Some of these “conservatives” have also switched their support to primaries in order to protect the elected from underdog candidates. Thankfully, underdogs like Congressman Brat had access to RVotes, a program powerful enough to overcome these attempts to keep conservatives out of office. Some conservatives have even gone as far as to target pro-RVote and pro-Convention SCC members in order to replace them with pro-primary, pro-Koch candidates – a clear homage to the keep it small, keep it all philosophy. This is a troubling development in grassroots Republican politics.
RVotes allows candidates to keep 100% of the data they collect. If they decide not to renew their license, a complete list of their recorded data will be compiled and mailed to them. Their data is preserved, should a PAC or campaign decide they would like to renew their license at a later date.
In looking into RVotes and I360, I also noticed something troubling. If I wanted to buy the complete Voter File for Virginia, which is “public data”, I would not be allowed access. Only PACs and various established political organizations are given access to the Voter File by the General Assembly.
Just remember, nothing in life is free. Anyone trying to give you something for nothing is certainly getting their fair value one way or another. Now, it is none of my business what programs RPV decides to use. If they are short on cash and cannot afford RVotes, then I completely understand; but the fact that the RNC is refusing to use the very program which has been so successful for the Democrats is beyond my understanding. Furthermore, it is important to note that RVotes and VoteBuilder are 100% separate. Several establishment figures in the commonwealth have been spreading the rumor that anyone who uses RVotes is actually giving Democrats access to that data. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you are interested in researching these data tools, you can check out RVotes and Votebuilder. Data is everything in politics, so it is not beyond the realm of reason to query Why Isn’t the RNC using RVotes nationwide? What the heck is going on? And if your response is that Republicans are winning elections all over the country, why would they need to change anything they are doing; then you misunderstand why Republicans are winning elections. Republicans aren’t winning elections on the basis of their organization, data, campaign strategies, fundraising, or political ideals. They are winning elections because the nation is in the process of completely rejecting the Democrat Party. The American voter simply has no other option besides the GOP. This pendulum swing will not last forever. The Democrats could come back toward the center of the political spectrum and if they do, the Republicans will lack the organization and data to defend themselves against a pendulum swing in the other direction.
Great article and plug for Rvotes. I am the Michigan Statewide Administrator for Rvotes. We have it in the State. Currently promoted by a group of Grassroots activists that saw the RNC software as trash.
Past users ran for US Senate, and Congress. We have users who are using it for Township trustee seats. There is a pricing model for just about any seat. Remember you get what you pay for. If it’s free, well need I say more.
The opposition say the data goes to the Dems. but that is so not true. You keep your own data and have the ability to share it with other, or keep it, or can sell it to fund your campaign. It’s your data. I don’t have access to your data unless you give me access.
Rvotes also does just about everything you could need in a campaign. Bar coded walk lists, smart phone integration, Call centers, EDO, GOTV, analytics, and more.
Some candidates use it cautiously at first; but after a short time are totally sold.
This is the best thing since canned beer for campaigns.
There is another option out there called Trail Blazer. We use it at the Hanover County Republican Committee. It’s a yearly lease, but you own the data and can export it at any time you like. It’s based on industry standard Microsoft technology. Annual lease fees are based on the number of records in your database. We did our initial data population by purchasing voter and voter history data for our county from the State Board of Elections – less than $250 for us. Not totally sure, but believe that Dave Brat’s campaign has used it as well. We are extremely pleased with the training and support service provided by the vendor – it’s onshore and we have gotten responses to emails even over weekends. Standard disclaimers apply – I am not involved with the vendor, other than being a satisfied customer. More info can be found here: http://www.trailblz.com/Political-Campaign-Software/Default.aspx
The net result of these systems are to obsolete your grassroots Republican. It renders the local units and sub-units the ‘appendix’ of politics.
Why should politicians and electeds pay any mind to local grassroots when they can bypass them completely.
Each official has their own machine, their own party, and can ‘buy’ ‘volunteers’ to feed the databeast.
And with a primary, these grassroots are no longer necessary to the nomination process.
BTW: There are several Delegates and Senators that have refused to give their hard won data to Speaker Howell and the Koch Brothers. The game played by the Speaker is to be the king maker where he controls the political consultant, campaign funds, and software. That way the newly elected official is beholden to the king maker instead of the voters that cast their votes for the candidate.
I project managed a software selection committee formed by John Whitbeck to evaluate and make recommendations for RPV to use statewide. We had 16 Republican’s from both political and technology fields. Most had used at least one of the products. We evaluated 8 products with three evaluation approaches and rVotes won all three. i360 came is second.
The i360 representatives would not quote us a software license where RPV owned and controlled the data generated by grassroots volunteers. This was not the case with rVotes and one of the many reasons its predecessor, VAN, has been so successful in the Democrat Party. Currently NGP-VAN has one million users on it everyday nationwide. Just remember that when you put data into i360 your are giving ownership and control of your data to the Koch Brothers who own i360.
rVotes is being used successfully in the 6th District, Scott Sayre is the Chair, where their moto is “Think Local, Win Bigger”. If you are interested in acquireing your own Unit or District License I would be happy to discuss that with you. You can reach me at [email protected] .
I attended the “Campaign Data Workshop” training event at the Leadership Institute in Arlington last year. It was informative, but basically a commercial for i360. I asked the instructor about rVotes and he said he never heard of it. The workshop has since been renamed to “Campaign Data Workshop with i360”. Maybe rVotes needs more marketing to differentiate itself from i360.
There is probably a money transaction betwwen the Koch Bros and LI. The Koch Bros.also have a high up employee on State Central Committee in Virginia.
Doesn’t surprise me one bit; just follow the money.
Excellent article and a great sales pitch for Rvotes. I would imagine, like all of the other databases, there is a significant cost to acquiring the data or purchasing a license. I am only somewhat familiar with Nationbuilder, so I am not predisposed toward any particular database, but their value to identify voters and their issues can make a difference in an election. Usually the cost is determined by cents per name on a list and capacity to build out the list. I presume the cost is significant to get a license for both Rvotes and I360. Often, a broker is a donor or someone who benefits by building out the list and selling or renting it to candidates, advertisers, etc. But if you believe in free markets, why would you be concerned that anyone could have control over a particular database. A candidate can shop for databases, no? Do Virginians really only have a choice between Rvotes or I360? Is anyone seriously throwing elections or backing candidates because of the database they favor?
If you use the wrong software, or use it wrongly, you don’t get to be a candidate.
i360 isn’t actually ‘free’ unless someone like the House Republican Caucus already has a license and lets a campaign use it. A campaign can always choose i360 and buy their own license, and control the data.
Practically speaking, they use it to update the data for that district which can be then easily repurposed for the next or other races.
Only way to be sure data isn’t used in other ways is to control the process yourself.
You never own or control your data in i360.
We were able to download all the district data at the end of the 2015 cycle after a HoD campaign. i360 allows any GOP or Libertarian campaign to use the data it’s collected.
They did not allow the Trump campaign anywhere near i360. Trump used NationBuilder which is worse than i360.
This is very insightful, I had never even heard of RVotes; so its just like any other software program for sale? Also on that pendulum swing, the retention of Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Ellison as leaders gives me the feeling we have some time
I would love to do a small scale R-Votes database just for my county.
You can buy your own county yearly license for minimal cost. We, GCRC, have had one for two years now. There are kinks and bad dats that need to be corrected, buy the sooner you jump in, the sooner you will make it an effective tool.
Or use a local or web database, but keep your data to the unit.
That’s exactly the way to do it — never give out the access, the unit may decide to convey candidate info to the county Rvoters as necessary.
Ever notice how the only job of a GOP unit volunteer/activist is to gather info for the faraway centralized databeast and ‘chip-in’ to the never-ending begging e-mails?
Perhaps this is why the party is the way it is?
Contact me at [email protected].