Romney Campaign Uses Data-Mining to Seek Rich Donors

by InvestorPlace Staff | August 24, 2012 3:29 pm

[1]Want to know how Mitt Romney has been so successful in out-fundraising Barack Obama’s campaign[2]? The answer, in part, lies in data.

More specifically, Romney’s campaign has used sophisticated and secretive data-mining techniques[3] to sift through Americans’ personal information — including purchasing history and church attendance — in order to identify new, wealthier donors.

What’s more, the company the Romney campaign has contracted with since at least June to mine this data is an analytics firm that previously worked on behalf of a colleague connected to Bain & Co., the management-consulting firm that Romney was once in charge of.

While the company, Buxton Co., admitted to helping Romney’s campaign, they declined to say what methods they used to seek out potential Republican donors, or how successful they had been. Also, there appear to be no records of payments from the Romney campaign directly to Buxton Co., nor is there any record of the Republican National Committee or joint fundraising committees paying Buxton Co. This could be because the company has not been billed yet for its services, though.

This move shows how Romney is applying market research methods more often seen in business than in politics to change the fundraising playing field. Buxton Co. bought access to expensive commercial databases that include details about credit accounts, families and children, voter registrations, charitable contributions, property tax records and survey responses. This data is typically used by businesses to decide where to open a new store or where to send direct mail advertising a product.

Romney’s campaign, however, has used this data to identify people who were likely to give large donations to Romney. As a result of this analysis, Romney’s campaign has successfully solicited rich Republican donors in traditionally Democratic areas, like San Francisco. Romney’s donors have also been giving larger amounts than Obama’s donors, which has been a large part of why Romney has been outpacing Obama in financing his campaign.

Obama has used data-mining techniques of his own, fine-tuning his messages to supporters and potential donors through Facebook and Twitter, but with the sorts of analysis and fundraising Romney is doing now, it appears the president’s campaign has some catching up to do.

— Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPlace Money & Politics Editor

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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