‘Most donors invest based on the perceived winnability of a race, rather than the difference their investment in the race will make to the outcome…’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) Stanford University professors have organized a secretive and influential group of Silicon Valley donors to sway political races in favor of Democrats in 2018 and 2020.
Known as Mind the Gap, the group uses the techniques of Silicon Valley: statistical models, secrecy and last-minute injections of cash.
“The group operates in a cone of secrecy, often exhorting its donors to keep their information secure,” Recode reported in a profile of the group for Vox.
“It has no website or presence on social media, and its leaders don’t mention their involvement in their professional biographies on sites like LinkedIn,” said the profile. “That’s not by accident.”
An anonymous donor to the group said Mind the Gap employs the “Moneyball of politics,” which elevates statistical analysis over traditional metrics.
“The raison d’être is stealth,” an individual close to Mind the Gap told Recode.
Mind the Gap does not announce which candidates and organizations it supports. In fact, the group does its best to hide that information.
That way, Republicans cannot retaliate with spending on advertisements, phone calls and mailers for their own candidates.
Democrats and Republicans usually maintain a spending parity in swing districts, with each party increasing their fundraising and spending as the other party ramps up theirs.
Mind the Gap tries to avoid this tit-for-tat fundraising and spending strategy by concealing their donations until the fall of a campaign, when Republicans will not have time to notice that Democrats are spending more on the race than they are.
Sometimes, Mind the Gap does not disclose their last-minute donations to the candidates themselves. So, Democrats find themselves flush with money shortly before the election.
Barbara Fried and Paul Brest, two Stanford University law professors, lead Mind the Gap, despite their seeming lack of experience with fundraising or campaigns.
Even Executive Director Graham Gottlieb served in only a minor role on former President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Fried would not comment on Mind the Gap’s work, but she said the group offers a “pro-bono donor advisor to people who are interested in evidence-driven decision making,” Vox reported.
“Most people have no idea whether their political contributions will actually make a difference,” Fried said. “Our aim is to evaluate the efficacy of different forms of political and civic engagement, and provide our conclusions free to individual, interested donors so they can make more educated decisions about where their money would be most effectively spent.”
Mind the Gap partners with Civis Analytics, a statistics and data company that works with Democrats, as well as widely known groups such as the AFL–CIO union, with its nearly 13 million members.
The group told Democratic donors in 2018 not to fund the purple and blue-leaning races, but instead to fund the red-leaning races, where their money will have a heavier impact.
Mind the Gap tries to overcome the bias to support candidates that donors believe can win.
“Democrats face a serious funding-efficiency gap: We are on track to significantly overfund many of the races perceived to be the ‘most flippable,’ and at the same time, underfund races that could be won if we invested in them,” according to a summer 2018 memo from Mind the Gap.
“To put it another way, most donors invest based on the perceived winnability of a race, rather than the difference their investment in the race will make to the outcome.”