Republican Party Aims to Match Democrats’ Data Strength

saulanuzisThe Democrats have Catalist, an outside firm that runs a database including voter information from the party and several left-leaning groups. Republicans want a Catalist of their own. The Republican National Committee is considering a project to develop its own active database entity that would live outside the party, and help it compete in a post-campaign finance reform world.

“I’ve been pushing for this for four years,” said Saul Anuzis, RNC technology committee chair, who spoke with ClickZ News at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York City this afternoon. The idea is to house the entire Republican database with a third party that would update, enhance, target and use the list in an effective way, said Anuzis. But the clock is ticking: Anuzis (pictured) believes the RNC must have an outside database program in place in the next 90-120 days in order to make an impact in the 2012 race.

At the heart of the issue is money. Since the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 – often referred to as McCain-Feingold – limited the ability of political parties to collect soft money, outside organizations have played an increasingly bigger role in political campaigning. Groups such as Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood use Catalist’s data services to target, persuade and mobilize progressives and Democrats.

With right-leaning outside groups like American Crossroads, Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks poised to reap fresh data and dollars from activists leading into 2012, a Catalist-like operation could give the RNC a strategic advantage, allowing the party to collect and share data from like-minded groups.

“A lot of our activity is coming from third-party groups,” said Anuzis, who believes Catalist was developed to help Democrats work around McCain-Feingold.

Currently, the RNC’s database sits idle in between election cycles. Meanwhile, left-leaning groups are able to plug fresh data into Catalist on a regular basis, and access it regularly.

Although time is of the essence, as primary campaign season has already begun, Anuzis said the RNC has yet to put out an RFP for the work. “I don’t think they’ve gone that far yet,” he said, noting that private groups have pitched the party regarding such work.

One thing that appears to be hindering the process is a lack of consensus regarding who will oversee a new external database system once it’s built. Anuzis said he would like former party leaders to have control.

“The trustees ought to be former RNC chairmen,” he said.

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