If Republican candidates are going to win elections in the aftermath of OFA’s rather brilliant demonstration of what winning campaigns need to look like, they’re going to have to stop doing business with shady, dishonest and bizarrely incompetent political vendors such as “Precision Data Management.” Even if folks like this don’t often make such boneheaded moves as the one I saw today, they suck away valuable resources, distract campaign operations away from productive pursuits, and boost the profiles of the least deserving in the business.
A strange email, ostensibly from George Allen, landed in my inbox today with the subject line “My Campaign’s First Critical Fundraising Deadline is December 31st.” Often these go directly to trash, but curious about what office George Allen was suddenly running for I decided to read it. Right off the bat, I figure this has got to be some sort of bad joke, as they can’t even spell “governor” correctly.
So let’s get this straight: Cuccinelli For Governor is buying “advertising” from George Allen? How utterly bizarre. There’s the required disclosure that it’s paid for and authorized by Ken Cuccinelli for Governor, and the donation links go to a pyrix website for Cuccinelli, so it doesn’t seem that this is one of those scams where some sends out fundraising appeals for a candidate, but the money doesn’t actually end up going to the candidate. This doesn’t seem to be a hoax.
Down at the bottom of this email there’s a disclosure of what entity is actually sending this, which turns out to be someone I’ve never heard of before.
“Precision Data Management” is located at 12120 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 450, in Reston and shares that address with “TMA Direct“, “Integrated Direct Marketing“, “TMA List Brokerage & Management Inc.”, and “American Legacy PAC.” Interestingly, “Precision Data Management” lists “TMA Direct” and “Integrated Direct Marketing” as corporate clients, which must be terribly convenient for them. Of these, only TMA List Brokerage shows up on VPAP as a vendor to political campaigns in Virginia.
The link that provides information on how I was “added to the system” provided the following information:
I have never donated to George Allen, much less “opted in” to an email spammer on December 5th, so this is clearly fabricated. More likely, some list obtained by PDM was loaded into their spam bot on December 5th and whoever did it picked some justifying reason at random. Apparently honesty isn’t important to PDM, which doesn’t reflect all that well on the clients who make the mistake of choosing them.
To be clear here, it’s pretty obvious that it was George Allen’s campaign that made this decision to do business with PDM. What I suspect happened here is that the Cuccinelli campaign “rented” an email list from the Allen campaign, which would have resulted in emails being sent out by the Allen campaign using the Allen campaign’s vendor. That vendor, in addition to being monumentally sloppy about the subject line and including a completely inappropriate disclaimer about “advertising” that makes no sense at all in political communications, padded their email list with garbage. There’s no way a month after a campaign concludes that they’d be adding additional names to a campaign email list as “donors” unless the intent was to repurpose campaign assets into a commercial money-making enterprise. I’ve no doubt that many others receiving this email would also find they were involuntarily “opted-in” the same way I was so some shady direct marketing firm could turn a profit by selling their names to other political and commercial enterprises.
An utterly tremendous volume of business is conducted in buying, selling and “renting out” lists for direct mail, telemarketing and email for Republican candidates and causes, to the point it is a significant focus for Republican campaigns. Vendors claim that if your list is good enough and you work it hard enough you’re going to win an election. Instead, campaigns spend extraordinary piles of money endlessly harassing a subgroup of the active electorate whose votes and campaign contributions they’re probably going to obtain regardless of how many emails and phone calls they bombard these folks with. People who aren’t on these lists are the ones campaigns have to spend time and effort reaching out to, which was precisely the focus of the Obama campaign and utterly not the focus of the Mitt Romney or George Allen campaigns.
If Republicans are going to win elections in the future rather than provide guaranteed employment opportunities to shady list vendors like PDM, they better realize pretty quickly that the art of using data in political campaigns has completely changed and these fraudsters are now useless wastes of money. ”Lists” might have worked in years past, but their value is rapidly dissipating. The response rates on a messages broadcast as widely as possible are dropping precipitously as voters and donors become increasingly hostile to the harassment, while the value of micro-targeted messages to carefully selected political and demographic subgroups is taking off.
Relying on “lists” is like dragging cases of shotgun shells out into a field and blasting away continuously while you hope something tasty flies overhead. All you end up doing is annoying people with the noise.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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