Today, Vox has an interesting story on a group of four Democratic billionaires who are looking to help the Biden campaign succeed in the 2020 election. The four in question are, “LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, philanthropist and Steve Jobs’s widow Laurene Powell Jobs, and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.” But while they have the money and the tech savvy to potentially help Biden, their attempts to outsource this critical part of the campaign isn’t always winning friends inside the existing party structure.
“My problem is when Silicon Valley folks think that they know how to do our jobs better. I would never walk into Google or anywhere else and say, ‘Your model sucks,’” Jane Kleeb, the chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, told Recode. “I don’t second-guess them, and I’m asking them not to second-guess us.”
Kleeb and others in Democratic politics have been particularly incensed by a political startup that Hoffman has invested about $18 million, his single-biggest bet this cycle, in called Alloy. The startup is attempting to build a warehouse to store the data that various progressive groups collect on voters and use it to try to get them to the polls…
But Alloy, despite all its promises to revitalize the left’s voter file, has had an at-times frosty relationship with party officials like Kleeb, who have their own voter file that they’d prefer to improve rather than circumvent. And some of the party’s most senior digital operatives consider Alloy to be an underachievement, saying that it has produced few tangible accomplishments, no publicly announced clients, and, most importantly, squandered significant time and money as it struggled to figure out its role in Democratic politics.
Eric Schmidt, the former Google CEO is apparently backing the Democratic Party’s own rival database. But Schmidt is going beyond that. His goal is not only to have the data but to provide tech experts to train local party operatives how best to make use of it. And that effort has apparently been mostly secret until Vox published this story.
One of Schmidt’s key projects is heavily funding a never-publicized group called STAC Labs, created in late 2019 to train state parties on how to use data, according to a job posting, including what the Schmidt-backed Democratic Data Exchange gathers. STAC assigns team members to state parties that serve as consultants, of sorts, to help them model their voters and use data effectively.
Another effort being backed by two of the four billionaires (Powell Jobs and Hoffman) is Acronym. You may remember Acronym as the group which funded tech company Shadow, creator of the app that utterly failed during the Iowa caucuses this year. Acronym CEO Tara McGowan has also created a series of partisan online newspapers which are intended to help Democrats in swing states. Hoffman has reportedly put $10 million into Acronym. His top political advisor wrote a 12-page memo which explains the thinking.
In a private 12-page memo written by Hoffman’s top political adviser, Dmitri Mehlhorn, and distributed to prominent donors late last month, Mehlhorn said the key to “beating Trump’s brand machine” was in part to build an equivalent content machine on the left, “building trusted media channels with peer-to-peer elements” and “content that has a journalistic flavor.”
The idea of creating “content that has a journalistic flavor” hasn’t gone over well with everyone. Journalist Steve Brill told Vox, “One of the things that really bothers me is the hypocrisy of people who say that they favor liberal values. And one of the most basic American values is the democratic process.” He continued, “When you undermine that process by posing as journalists — when you’re just out to make a partisan hit on someone or a partisan support of someone on the left — I think that is so hideous that it really needs to be called out.”
Acronym claims their fake newspapers are transparent about their progressive partisanship but as I pointed out last year, that’s not really true. What Acronym is creating and what Hoffman is funding is more accurately termed propaganda. The story closes by noting that Hoffman was a featured guest last week on a conference call set up by the Biden campaign.
I wonder how all of the Bernie Sanders fans being asked to vote for Biden feel about having billionaires run their own private Biden campaign.