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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Romney Using Secret Data-Mining To Attract Donors

Subrina Hudson |
August 24, 2012 | 11:28 a.m. PDT

Executive Producer

Romney collected more than $350,000 this summer around San Francsico in contributions reports the AP. (Austen Hufford/Flickr)
Romney collected more than $350,000 this summer around San Francsico in contributions reports the AP. (Austen Hufford/Flickr)
Mitt Romney has been using a secret data-mining project, since at least June, that sifts through Americans' personal information such as purchase history and church attendance to identify new and likely wealthy donors, according to The Associated Press.

The head of Buxton Co., of Fort Worth, Texas, chief executive Tom Buxton confirmed to the AP his company’s efforts to help Romney identify rich and untapped Republican donors across the country. The little-known but successful analytics firm previously performed marketing work for a colleague tied to Bain & Co., the management-consulting firm that Romney once led.

There are no records of payment to Buxton from Romney’s campaign, the Republican National Committee or a joint fundraising committee reports the AP. Companies cannot use corporate money or resources, like proprietary data analysis, for in-kind contributions to campaigns.

From the AP:

The effort by Romney appears to be the first example of a political campaign using such extensive data analysis. President Barack Obama's re-election campaign has long been known as data-savvy, but Romney's project appears to take a page from the Fortune 500 business world and dig deeper into available consumer data.

The analysis doesn't directly bring in campaign contributions, but it generates the equivalent of sales leads for Romney's campaign.

The project relies upon a sophisticated analysis by powerful computers of thousands of commercially available, expensive databases that are lawfully bought and sold behind the scenes by corporations, including details about credit accounts, families and children, voter registrations, charitable contributions, property tax records and survey responses. It combines marketing data with what is known in this specialized industry as psychographic information about Americans.

An early test analyzed details of more than 2 million households near San Francisco and elsewhere on the West Coast and identified thousands of people who would be comfortably able and inclined to give Romney at least $2,500 or more.

Buxton said he is working for the Romney campaign because he wants “to be on the winning team.” He confirmed that the data-mining project began with the help of Dick Boyce, Romney’s former Bain & Co. colleague.

Buxton is not listed as a vendor in any of Romney’s campaign reports submitted to the Federal Election Commission. The AP reports that some campaigns do not report expenses until the vendor sends them a bill.

For more of Neon Tommy’s coverage on Mitt Romney, click here.

Reach Executive Producer Subrina Hudson here; follow her on Twitter here.



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