Hillary Clinton leans on Eric Schmidt’s startup for campaign technology

Better than a Super PAC?
Better than a Super PAC?
Image: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch
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The Groundwork, a political technology startup funded by Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt, has maintained its position as the top technology provider to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

US political candidates reported their fundraising and expenditures for the third quarter to the public yesterday (Oct. 15), and a Quartz analysis shows that The Groundwork continued to play a significant role in Clinton’s front-running campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination—and in no other.

The Groundwork received payments of $136,131 during the third quarter, bringing its total payments from Clinton’s campaign up to $313,349. It is the single highest-paid provider of technology services to the campaign in the quarter, and second only to Blue Wolf Group, a digital consulting company, in total earnings.

A Clinton campaign source said the Blue Wolf Group, which hasn’t been paid since August, is no longer major contributor to the campaign’s digital efforts.

The Clinton campaign raised $29.45 million in the third quarter and spent $25.8 million in the process, far more than any of her Democratic or Republican rivals, and she still tops all presidential candidates with $33 million in cash on hand.

Out of the $60 million she has raised so far in total, the campaign has spent $5.7 million on outside vendors for her digital campaign apparatus—including subscriptions to digital tools such as Slack and Github—on top of salaries for a burgeoning team of data analysts, engineers, product managers, and strategists.

Most of the outside digital spending—some $4 million—has gone to Bully Pulpit Interactive, a digital ad-buying firm that in turn uses most of that money to place ads on the web and social media.

Her other major digital vendors by expenditure include NGP VAN ($113,000 in total), which builds and maintains voter file databases for Democratic campaigns, and Precision Strategies ($80,000 in total), a firm co-founded by Teddy Goff, the campaign’s top digital strategist, who is paid as a consultant.

The Groundwork, as Quartz revealed, is building the infrastructure for a modern, data-driven campaign—integrating vast amounts of information into a platform that will allow Clinton to raise money, coordinate volunteers and events, and plot get-out-the-vote efforts.

In many other Democratic campaigns, this sort of work was done by Blue State Digital, a consulting firm that was a top contractor on both Obama campaigns. But the company, whose founder Joe Rospars reportedly wrote a memo playing up potential Clinton rival Senator Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy, has not received any payments from the Clinton campaign since July.

According to a newly-added jobs page on its otherwise empty website, the Groundwork is “is a platform for community engagement at scale, which enables social-impact organizations to leverage world-class technology to create awareness, build community, and activate supporters.”

The Groundwork’s main investor, Eric Schmidt, has a history of investing in startups that emerge from Democratic campaigns, and his decision to fund this one could end up being even more valuable to Clinton than a big donation. The company, founded as Clinton began exploring her presidential run, works with no other campaigns, but says it has other non-profit clients.