Four years ago, Michael Beach was toiling inside the Republican National Committee, overseeing a voter-turnout operation that was overrun by President Barack Obama’s technology-driven grassroots army.
After the election, he and another former RNC aide, then both 28 years old, set out to start a high-tech political consulting company that is now an expanding 50-person operation with offices in Virginia and Boston. One recent morning, 14 job candidates filed into his fourth-floor office in Alexandria, Virginia, where a wiffle ball net is stowed in the lobby and a pirate flag hangs in the conference room. How many might he hire? “Fourteen, if we like them all,” he said. The rapid expansion of Targeted Victory showcases the rise of a new professional, political class: a core group of young technology experts who are shunning traditional campaign titles, starting companies and making millions off the most expensive presidential campaign in history. They are cutting a path similar to the one etched by television ad makers in the 1980s, with a dose of Silicon Valley and the dot-com boom’s edginess.
“This is a huge market, and companies will keep forming to try to fill the need,” says Andrew Rasiej, founder of Personal Democracy Media, a New York-based group that focuses on the intersection of technology, politics and civil society. “Every online technique used by Fortune 500 companies will be in the hands of politicians in the next four to eight years.” Federal candidates and super-PACs have spent more than $46 million so far this election cycle for the services of just three firms — Targeted Victory and the two major Democratic tech operations, Blue State Digital and Bully Pulpit Interactive, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of Federal Election Commission reports conducted for Bloomberg News.