Working in politics, longevity is measured in 2-year cycles. Spending more than one cycle in a job is rare. In that way I’ve been lucky. I got my first job in politics at the age of 19, working at the original progressive data organization, the National Committee for an Effective Congress, and worked there for 18 years. I left there reluctantly, but driven by a desire to launch a cutting-edge polling and analytics firm with the mission of making analytics available to Democrats at all levels of the ballot. 3 years later I found myself at TargetSmart, having been offered the Chief Executive job at what was then emerging as the leading Democratic data provider.
I’ve spent the entirety of my 27-year career working to elect Democrats and advance progressive causes. I’m proud of the work I’ve done and recognize that none of it would have been possible without the incredible teams I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years.
I’m particularly proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past 6 years at TargetSmart. I can tell you from first-hand experience that building and maintaining an accurate national voter file is relentlessly hard work. Data acquisition and enhancements have no off-cycle, and for that reason, our team at TargetSmart had to build a self-sustaining business model that would allow us to break the seasonal hiring cycles that plague our industry. We also sought to make this happen without taking on outside funding, so as to not drain essential funding from progressive orgs, allowing those resources to be spent on program rather than a business. I’m proud that we are the only data provider on either side of the aisle to have built a successful business model without taking on outside funding, while staying true to our progressive values.
None of this was easy. It has taken hard work by a dedicated group of talented team members, and the support of a parent company who understood and shared our vision. The leadership at the TARA Group put people before profits, allowing us to never lay off staff with the ups and downs of the electoral cycle, and reinvesting in our data and infrastructure to maintain our advantage and ensure Democrats and progressives will have access to the best data available.
We’ve faced criticism for sharing our ownership group with companies who work with bi-partisan membership organizations. This criticism ignores some important facts: all TARA Group companies operate independently from each other, making our own decisions on clients and business operations. TargetSmart does not work with Republican campaigns or organizations.
To be clear, this makes TargetSmart an outlier in the political data world. The data provider to Bernie’s presidential campaign also was the primary data provider to the Trump campaign. In the 2020 cycle another data provider sold their voter file to both Kevin McCarthy and Adam Schiff.
All of this aside, Mother Jones chose to single out TargetSmart, criticizing us not for the work we do, the results we have achieved, or our choices of who we support, but rather because of the companies with whom we share an ownership group. I’ve learned something in my 27 years working to elect Democrats and advance progressive causes: there will always be those who seek to derail progress based on their own narrow concerns. We can’t stop that. What we can do is promise to not lose focus on what matters, and right now we’re focused on helping Dems win critically important elections in New Jersey and Virginia next week, promoting the President’s agenda in the states, and preparing for the most consequential midterm elections this country has witnessed in generations.