Romney’s White Whale: Old Man’s IT and the Election That Got Away

Moby Dick

[Illustration from Moby Dick, c. 1925 edition]

ArsTechnica did a comparison between Mitt Romney’s and Barack Obama’s campaigns’ information technology expenditures. They note a few key attributes that differentiate the Romney campaign’s use of IT:

  • Outsource anything that’s not a key competency, and spend as little as possible on it;
  • Reward “friends” with outsourcing contracts;
  • Spend on ad hoc items and pre-built SaaS* (buy from “friends” where possible).

Sure looks like the typical modus operandi of vulture capitalists that don’t invest but hit-and-run on the high seas, looking to harpoon anything of value in order to flay its carcass for cash. This says something both familiar and abhorrent about Mitt Romney and his supporters with regard to democracy.

But there are several other points that ArsTechnica missed in their assessment.

Generational shift — The difference in funds allocated and the way in which the IT monies were spent revealed a compelling truth: old guy Romney doesn’t value information technology the way younger guy Obama does. It’s a generational shift, from old school campaigns which still rely heavily on direct mail and broadcast media, to digital campaigns run by Gen-X and Millennials who are digital natives.

Based on past performance by vendors and team members alike, Obama’s team also trusts the technology team it assembled to do work quickly, effectively, on the fly. They trusted technology.

In contrast, Romney’s camp went with bigger brand name vendors like Best Buy (via service subsidiary) and SalesForce (for customer relationship management SaaS app). In mega-corporate they trust, apparently.

IT effectiveness opaque to outsiders — What exactly was the Romney team’s ORCA application? ArsTechnica notes the lack of disclosure, but doesn’t really ask a key question: what were all of ORCA’s deliverables? It sure wasn’t a GOTV application based on what the public could see. It looked more like a GMSV (giant money-sucking vortex) and nobody from Team Romney wants to talk, while rejecting any claims that ORCA was a fail whale. We’ll likely never know what the problems were with ORCA and what positive/negative impact it had on the campaign unless insiders leak about the application.

“Friends” made less visible IT contributions — Although some Obama supporters provided their own IT firepower to boost support through their own independent effort, the Romney camp received far more IT help in tandem through super PACs. The pro-Romney/anti-Obama digital campaign purchased by these super PAC “friends” was far larger than the Romney campaign’s IT component.

And of course, IT spending by these groups can be a black hole since donors’ identities need not be disclosed. How does the public know with absolute certainty what was donated if full disclosure isn’t required? Under current campaign finance laws we can’t be absolutely certain if donors provided cash, or a donation-in-kind, or both; there’s an inadequate amount of information reported providing a solid audit trail to assure the public that donations of any kind have been fully revealed. Ditto for privately-held corporations like those owned by the Koch brothers whose financial records are confidential; what was their contribution to these super PACs?

Yet firms with the biggest IT spending in the world are required to be more transparent, due to their status as publicly-held entities. Funny how we expect our search engines and booksellers to be more upfront with their digital technology expenditures than a campaign that sought control of our federal government.

* SaaS = Software as a Service — buy-as-you-use hosted applications, versus packaged applications or developed/customized to order hosted applications.

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook0Google+0Email to someone

21 Responses to Romney’s White Whale: Old Man’s IT and the Election That Got Away

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21
Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @AdamSerwer I think Exxon would call it a "useful idiot."
emptywheel @JayAckroyd Sure. Probably looked at the Clown Show GOP has become & said "here's my chance!" @poniewozik @digby56 @realDonaldTrump
bmaz Can you be more specific? Cause that's about any given 14 day period for the current iteration of the House.
bmaz Pure Michigan Trash Talk Hail to The Fighting Journalists of Northwestern!
JimWhiteGNV My heart goes out to the generous people of Turkey on this tragic day. This beautiful rug is from wife's visit there
JimWhiteGNV Oh, crap. So sad to hear situation in Turkey getting worse. When will the bloodshed stop spreading?
emptywheel @peterwsinger They've been successful as they fight alongside "more extremist" factions--would be material support if Muslim teenager did it
emptywheel @joanneleon Maybe the overt program was just cover for the covert one, until it became inconvenient as a collosal failure? @MaxAbrahms
emptywheel Hey! America!! Our super secret covert program in Syria has been working great if you ignore how it's helping AQ!!
emptywheel @JayAckroyd Except anyone who's been paying attention knows GOP has been reality show for 2 cycles. @poniewozik @digby56 @realDonaldTrump
bmaz @Pachacutec_ Dude. Seriously? Would very much have liked that.
bmaz @Pachacutec_ Lasorda is an ass. But ya gotta love Da Bums!
November 2012
« Oct   Dec »