The Tech Start-Up Running Hillary Clinton’s Campaign

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Mark Almond/AP

The Groundwork, started by Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt, plays a major role in Clinton’s digital efforts.

The Ground­work, a polit­ic­al tech­no­logy start-up fun­ded by Al­pha­bet ex­ec­ut­ive chair­man Eric Schmidt, has main­tained its po­s­i­tion as the top tech­no­logy pro­vider to Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign.

Can­did­ates re­por­ted their fun­drais­ing and ex­pendit­ures for the third quarter to the pub­lic on Thursday, and a Quartzana­lys­is shows that The Ground­work con­tin­ued to play a sig­ni­fic­ant role in Clin­ton’s front-run­ning cam­paign for the Demo­crat­ic pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion—and in no oth­er.  

The Ground­work re­ceived pay­ments of $136,131 dur­ing the third quarter, bring­ing its total pay­ments from Clin­ton’s cam­paign up to $313,349. It is the single highest-paid pro­vider of tech­no­logy ser­vices to the cam­paign in the quarter, and second only to Blue Wolf Group, a di­git­al con­sult­ing com­pany, in total earn­ings. A Clin­ton cam­paign source said the Blue Wolf Group, which hasn’t been paid since Au­gust, is no longer a ma­jor con­trib­ut­or to the cam­paign’s di­git­al ef­forts.  

The Clin­ton cam­paign raised $29.45 mil­lion in the third quarter and spent $25.8 mil­lion in the pro­cess, far more than any of Clin­ton’s Demo­crat­ic or Re­pub­lic­an rivals, and she still tops all pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates with $33 mil­lion in cash on hand.

Out of the $60 mil­lion she has raised so far in total, the cam­paign has spent $5.7 mil­lion on out­side vendors for her di­git­al cam­paign ap­par­at­us—in­clud­ing sub­scrip­tions to di­git­al tools such as Slack and Git­hub—on top of salar­ies for a bur­geon­ing team of data ana­lysts, en­gin­eers, product man­agers, and strategists.  

Most of the out­side di­git­al spend­ing—some $4 mil­lion—has gone to Bully Pul­pit In­ter­act­ive, a di­git­al ad-buy­ing firm that in turn uses most of that money to place ads on the Web and so­cial me­dia. Her oth­er ma­jor di­git­al vendors by ex­pendit­ure in­clude NGP VAN ($113,000 in total), which builds and main­tains voter-file data­bases for Demo­crat­ic cam­paigns, and Pre­ci­sion Strategies ($80,000 in total), a firm cofoun­ded by Teddy Goff, the cam­paign’s top di­git­al strategist, who is paid as a con­sult­ant.

The Ground­work, as Quartz re­vealed, is build­ing the in­fra­struc­ture for a mod­ern, data-driv­en cam­paign—in­teg­rat­ing vast amounts of in­form­a­tion in­to a plat­form that will al­low Clin­ton to raise money, co­ordin­ate vo­lun­teers and events, and plot get-out-the-vote ef­forts.  

In many oth­er Demo­crat­ic cam­paigns, this sort of work was done by Blue State Di­git­al, a con­sult­ing firm that was a top con­tract­or on both Obama cam­paigns. But the com­pany, whose founder Joe Ros­pars re­portedly wrote a memo play­ing up po­ten­tial Clin­ton rival Eliza­beth War­ren’s can­did­acy, has not re­ceived any pay­ments from the Clin­ton cam­paign since Ju­ly.  

Ac­cord­ing to a newly-ad­ded jobs page on its oth­er­wise empty web­site, The Ground­work “is a plat­form for com­munity en­gage­ment at scale, which en­ables so­cial-im­pact or­gan­iz­a­tions to lever­age world-class tech­no­logy to cre­ate aware­ness, build com­munity, and ac­tiv­ate sup­port­ers.”  

The Ground­work’s main in­vestor, Eric Schmidt, has a his­tory of in­vest­ing in start-ups that emerge from Demo­crat­ic cam­paigns, and his de­cision to fund this one could end up be­ing even more valu­able to Clin­ton than a big dona­tion. The com­pany, foun­ded as Clin­ton began ex­plor­ing her pres­id­en­tial run, works with no oth­er cam­paigns, but says it has oth­er non­profit cli­ents.