A secretive data and technology company linked to conservative oil billionaires Charles and David Koch has reached an agreement to share its information with the “voter file and data management company” that holds an exclusive agreement with the Republican National Committee. This will allow the Republican Party full access to voter data collected by the Koch’s Freedom Partners entities and clients — and entrenches the Kochs’ network even deeper into the GOP.
Because political parties are not allowed to accept corporate contributions, it would be illegal for the Kochs to simply give their massive databases to the Republican National Committee directly. But the Republican National Committee has outsourced its database management to a company called GOP Data Trust. And that company joined forces Thursday with i360 (aka Themis), a firm reportedly backed by the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners and serving as repository for the data amassed by the Kochs’ political empire.
In a press release, the two companies claimed that the “historic data sharing partnership” will “allow Republican and Conservative campaign resources to be spent more efficiently than ever before.” They noted that “voter contact information gathered by clients of either The Data Trust or i360” will be now used by both to “improve the data shared with all clients,” meaning “conservative groups and campaigns will have more information about voters at their disposal for their own activities than ever before.”
Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, told ThinkProgress that as long as the Republican National Committee pays fair-market value to its data vendor, it does not matter who that vendor coordinates with. “Campaign finance laws only regulate the committees themselves, not other freestanding entities,” he explained.
Ryan noted that this sort of coordination is not necessarily exclusive to GOP entities — and that it can be a real challenge in determining what is a “fair” value for voter data. He pointed out that the super PAC ‘Ready for Hillary’ is collecting a great deal of information on pro-Clinton donors. That information “would be immensely valuable to Hillary Clinton, if she decides to run for president,” he explained, but probably “less valuable to another candidate.” And, in the end, it would up to the Federal Election Commission to determine whether the RNC or a theoretical Hillary Clinton campaign is paying a fair amount for that information.
But in a time when the lines between the Republican Party and the Kochs were already blurred, this deal is another indication that the anti-government billionaire activists are leading the party.
(HT: Jon Ward)