#UniteBlue: It’s not a conspiracy, but it could become one.

UniteBlue article series, Part III of III

“Why the hell would anyone on the Right want to buy data about folks on the Left? Do you really think they are good fundraisers?” Zach Green, owner of #UniteBlue and founder of @140elect, asks in a post explaining away the right-wing clients he served throughout his short political career. Given his background specializing in Tea Party candidates, it’s not a ludicrous suggestion that he’s hiding some things, if not a lot of things from Unite Blue members.


It’s hard to believe that Zach Green is naive of the culture wars that have been raging for the past two years. Big data aggregation has the ability to identify, target, and  exploit voters in various ways by finding information about their behavior.
Data mining and aggregation can easily be used to match your email address, demographics (because, yes, you wrote “black” “mother” or “grandmother” on your Twitter profile) and other information to a nefarious entity that could defraud you, target you, and ultimately, invalidate your vote. It’s really not a far-fetched notion to suggest that an organization could easily match IP addresses, first names, and profiles to voters in a given precinct. They have the software to scrape and organize that information into a clean and tidy profile – plug it into a spreadsheet, and send it along to whomever they choose.


Data mining captures data from multiple sources, usually publicly available, although Mitt Romney’s campaign used private data mining alongside public information to target voters in 2012. The information he used helped gather statistics about church attendance, purchases from credit cards, and other behavior to target voters he felt fit with his demographics.


Some states make voting registration public. Fraud, especially in “red states” like Unite Blue is targeting (supposedly to “turn blue”), has run rampant, even in the past year.  Just last October, in Texasa fraudulent flyer was distributed in African American neighborhoods in Houston by the “Black Democratic Trust of Texas,” a nonexistent group, advising voters not to vote for the Democratic ticket because their votes will instead go to the Republic.


Zach and Adam Green never quite actually addressed the fact that he and his father are paid political shills, and did actual, paid work for GOP clients, including the sketchy SuperPAC that owns TheTeaParty.net. To be honest, their writing and political messaging don’t carry the weight and passion of well-seasoned activists. It’s very difficult to detect any political passions or favorite issues, other than the standard “gun control” hashtag trends.


Unfortunately, Zach and Adam appear to be primarily “data guys,”  and if you have ever worked in marketing or sales, you know that the “data guys” aren’t the people to rely on to craft persuasive messaging. It doesn’t appear they plan on getting any assistance with their messaging efforts, which, if UniteBlue IS harmless, devalues their brand and leaves their “call to action” falling short of anything but hashtag wars and metric analysis. Not exactly the basis for starting a political movement, a boots-on-the-ground effort, or any demonstrable political activism that works for change.


There’s also a tangible problem with Unite Blue’s handling of criticism — they are reactive and angry when confronted about their past, often taking to smears and ultimate rejection of the people who ask questions or criticize their campaigns.The political smear that Zach Green wrote in retaliation against “money out of politics” blogger PoliticolNews.com is quite nasty, and not what I would expect from a nonprofit seeking support from grassroots team or seeking to comfort valid fears about the possibilities of big data, data mining, and prescriptive marketing.

Adam Green is also a member of the group Boston Political Data Scientists. Originally called the “Boston Data Patriots”, the group is a mix of independents and Tea Party, where it appears the members share data freely. He’s given a few presentations to members, and it’s not clear what “Twitter application” he demonstrated, although I’m hedging my bets that it had something to do with data mining – and, UniteBlue.

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