Britt Technology Impact Series

Digital Donkeys & Electronic Elephants: Campaigning with Big Data

October 26, 2012 • Tuck School of Business

Digital Donkeys & Electronic Elephants: Campaigning with Big Data PhotoChris Kelly

2012 is the year that many are calling the year of big data in politics. Just a few weeks before the election, we presented a “political” panel at Tuck to discuss the usage, applications and implications of big data in campaigns. The panel examined the role of information in politics and campaign strategy by talking with companies that have done work for the Obama and Romney campaigns. This panel featured an in-person moderator and panelists attending via video-conference and included a Q&A session.

Joseph Bafumi, Associate Professor of Government, Dartmouth College
Tom Buxton, Chairman, Buxton
Chris Kelly, Former Chief Privacy Officer, Facebook (until 2010)
Nate Murphy, Election Center Manager, NationBuilder
This panel was presented as part of Tuck’s Technology Club Conference titled, “Trends in Technology.” The student-run Technology Club helps Tuck students learn about the roles that MBAs play at technology companies and gain exposure to different high-tech industries. The club receives support from and collaborates extensively with the Center for Digital Strategies at Tuck.

Explore the Tuck News article about this event.
isten to the Podcast >

Tom BuxtonTom Buxton, Chairman, BuxtonBuxton
Tom Buxton is chairman of Buxton, the industry leader and expert in customer analytics. The knowledge Buxton gained during two decades with the consumer electronics retailer Tandy/RadioShack, coupled with his extensive retail experience, led to the founding of Buxton in 1994. Tom Buxton was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year® 2007 in the Business Services category for the Southwest Area. He is often a featured speaker for many organizations, including International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), National League of Cities and Texas Municipal League. In 2006, Retail Traffic recognized Buxton as one of three figures “influencing the future of retail real estate.”

Chris Kelly, Former Chief Privacy Officer, Facebook (shown top right)facebook
Chris served as Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook, overseeing privacy, security, and safety for the site’s 200 million users. While at Facebook, working side by side with Attorneys General from across the nation, Chris developed and implemented technology features to protect young people and allow all users to have a safer and more trusted online experience. Chris has also been a champion of Facebook’s capability to connect people to their elected officials across the globe.

Prior to joining Facebook, Chris returned to his boyhood home of Silicon Valley to practice law. Through his work in private practice, Chris advised some of the most innovative Internet and media clients on the increasing challenges of intellectual property and privacy protection for the digital age. He represented clients at the cutting edge of legal issues from online safety and privacy to antitrust that are central to the Attorney General’s law enforcement and consumer protection roles. After graduating from law school, Chris clerked for federal Judge Barry Moskowitz, of the United States District Court in San Diego. As a clerk, Chris assisted Judge Moskowitz on various criminal and civil cases involving drug smuggling, immigration and money laundering.

During his time with the Clinton Administration, Chris gained an abiding respect for public service and greater desire to be a public servant. As a policy advisor for President Clinton’s White House Domestic Policy Council and Department of Education, Chris worked on important domestic programs including the successful initiative to put 100,000 new community police officers on America’s streets and the formation of AmeriCorps, a network of national service programs that engage Americans in community service for education, public safety, health and the environment. A longtime California resident with experience in the public, legal and business sectors, Chris has a unique grasp on the issues facing Californians. After growing up in Santa Ana and San Jose, Chris received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University in 1991, a master’s degree from Yale University in 1992, and his law degree from Harvard University in 1997.

Nate Murphy, Election Center Manager, NationBuilder
NationBuilderNate Murphy is the Election Center manager and resident voter data specialist at NationBuilder, a technology start-up based in Los Angeles that provides community organizing software to campaigns and political organizations across the country.

Before NationBuilder, Nate spent four years as a political consultant for progressive causes and candidates in Idaho. In addition to managing campaigns for several legislative candidates, Nate served as a GIS consultant to the co-chair of Idaho’s citizen redistricting committee. When Nate turned twenty-one, he surprised Idaho’s political establishment by announcing his decision to run for the local School Board. Increasingly frustrated with poor education policies, the general laziness of many elected officials, and the lack of youth perspective, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Nate made grassroots activism and social media outreach the focus of his school board campaign. He spent a total of $10, knocked on over 8,000 doors and beat the incumbent board president (5 term veteran) by a razor-thin margin of nine votes. He recently suspended his campaign for the Idaho House of Representatives to lead the development of the NationBuilder Election Center, a nationwide voter file database that includes all 50 states. NationBuilder offers this data free to any campaign regardless of party or monetary status. Nate believes in the power of equipping regular citizens with the tools they need to become leaders and organize around social good. Big data is the future of political campaigning and Nate is working hard to make sure all candidates have access to this data and the tools to effectively use it.

Joseph Bafumi, Associate Professor of Government, Dartmouth College (moderator)Dartmouth College
Joseph Bafumi is an Associate Professor of Government at Dartmouth College.  He was a 2010-2011 American Political Science Association (APSA) Congressional Fellow serving on the Senate Budget Committee staff.  Bafumi teaches courses in American government, public policy and quantitative methods.  He has published in several scholarly journals including the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Political Analysis and PS: Political Science & Politics.  He received a PhD in Political Science from Columbia University.

Digital Donkeys and Electronic Elephants: Campaigning with Big Data

Experience video highlights of this discussion.

  • A final sound check with the three remote panelists.

  • Brent Dance T'13 introduce's Tom Buxton who joined from Dallas.

  • The full room watches as the discussion begins.

  • Speakers are featured full screen when their voice is registered and on the back wall for the moderator's benefit.

  • One students asks the panelists if there's a danger in becoming too reliant upon big data. NationBuilder's Nate Murphy is listening via webex.

  • Chris Kelly and others agree that the danger lies within relying on bad modeling or unclean data sets, not in the reliance to big data itself. More information can only mean more insight to who consumers or voters are.

  • Professor Bafumi poses questions secured prior-to the event via crowd sourcing on Chatter.

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