By Kenneth P. Vogel and Darren Samuelsohn
12/8/14 11:59 PM EST
The Republican Party’s top operatives — including strategists representing the Koch brothers’ political operation and several leading prospective 2016 presidential candidates – on Monday huddled behind closed doors to discuss how to synchronize their sometimes competing tech efforts, multiple attendees confirmed to POLITICO.
The all-day meeting attracted about 40 of the right’s biggest names in tech and strategy – including Koch operatives Michael Palmer and Marc Short, leading strategists from many of the major super PACs and all of the party committees, as well as close allies of Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and Scott Walker.
The session was at least partly intended to quash a rivalry simmering in the right’s tech ranks. Some party operatives worry that the competition between would be data-wizards could emerge as a problem for Republicans, since Democrats under President Barack Obama have coordinated their technology efforts relatively closely.
Dick Boyce, a California investor who’s made it his mission to help Republicans cooperate on the tech front in order to avoid the data debacle they suffered in 2012, organized Monday’s session at the K Street offices of the law firm Wiley Rein.
GOP outreach efforts lagged far behind Obama’s vaunted voter-targeting machine in 2012, culminating in the embarrassing Election-Day snafus that plagued the turnout platform built by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign. The platform, called ORCA, was ridiculed as “Romney’s fail whale” and became emblematic of the tech deficiencies plaguing the GOP.
After 2012, conservatives generally agreed that addressing those deficiencies was a driving imperative since data is increasingly central to all phases of politics — from fundraising to messaging to getting out the vote. But they disagreed on how — and who — best to do it, and a competition for data supremacy has emerged between the Koch operation’s technology company (called i360), the Republican National Committee’s effort (Data Trust) and various other outside players.
According to multiple participants, Boyce told attendees it is essential for conservatives to start working more closely together soon — well before the 2016 GOP presidential primary — otherwise the party’s nominee will have to play catchup in the general election like Romney struggled to do. Boyce did not respond to an email message seeking comment on Monday afternoon.
A former CEO of J.Crew and partner in Bain & Co. who maintains deep connections in Silicon Valley, Boyce previously collaborated with GOP uber operative Karl Rove on Liberty Works, a post-2012 effort to recruit top tech talent and build a data platform, but it didn’t pan out. Now, Boyce is back with a new for-profit company called Ready to Win, which organized Monday’s confab.
One attendee praised Boyce and his new outfit for taking the initiative in trying to address a tricky problem seen as key to the GOP’s chances in 2016.
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