Romney: Your Data is Mine, But My Tithing is Secret!

The AP is out with a story on the Romney campaign’s mining of voter data:

Mitt Romney’s success in raising hundreds of millions of dollars in the costliest presidential race ever can be traced in part to a secretive data-mining project that sifts through Americans’ personal information – including their purchasing history and church attendance – to identify new and likely, wealthy donors, The Associated Press has learned.

For the data-mining project, the Republican candidate has quietly employed since at least June a little-known but successful analytics firm that previously performed marketing work for a colleague tied to Bain & Co., the management-consulting firm that Romney once led.

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 previously untapped Republican donors across the country. The Romney campaign declined to discuss on the record its work with Buxton or the project’s overall success. . . .

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. . . .

Businesses use those kinds of analytics firms to answer key questions for clients, such as where to build a retail store or where to mail pamphlets touting a new product. 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.

(emphasis mine) Meanwhile, on his own charitable contributions, Romney has this to say:

Mitt Romney says in a new interview that one of the reasons he’s distressed about disclosing his tax returns is that everyone sees how much money he and his wife, Ann, have donated to the LDS Church, and that’s a number he wants to keep private.

“Our church doesn’t publish how much people have given,” Romney tells Parade magazine in an edition due out Sunday. “This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one’s financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It’s a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church.”

 

 

 

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email