Friday, April 25, 2014

Does the Refresh App Hold Promise for Prospect Research?

Finding new potential donors is a large part of what we do as prospect researchers, but we are also called to prepare leadership for meetings with prospects. I just read an article about a new app, called Refresh, might just help in this regard. Basically, the app finds what it can through social media and then provides a bit of context for it. For example, it might present the schedule for the Baltimore Orioles if your prospect is a fan. While the concept is new and the risk for incorrect or irrelevant connections is high, I can only imagine the promise of this technology in the future. Do you think it has a place in prospect research?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Full Disclosure of Political Giving

Even though I’m no lawyer (I don’t even play one on TV), I wanted to delve into yesterday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. Personal politics aside (don’t get me started…), I think the decision, at least to my somewhat simplistic understanding of it, might be a net positive for prospect research. I’m not so sure it’s a great thing for democracy, but I’m looking for a silver lining here.  

According to an opinion piece by Stanford law professor Nathaniel Persily in today’s New York Times (sorry if this is behind a pay wall), the Supreme Court’s ruling “struck down as a violation of the First Amendment the aggregate limit of $123,200 that an individual could divide up among candidates and parties.” Persily’s thinking seems to be that if you set aside whether giving that much money is good or not, at the very least it will now be disclosed. He puts it much more elegantly:  “Any court decision tackling [the problem of undisclosed gifts] (even unintentionally) should be welcomed, if it levels the playing field between those who exercise power openly and must face the voters and those who can never be held accountable.”  My take is that people who might give large gifts secretly to Super PACS thanks to the Citizen’s United case might now give large gifts directly to candidates  and be required to disclose those gifts. Because of legal limits, publicly available political giving has always seemed to skew on the low side, making it difficult to estimate the donor’s wealth. The folks at DonorSearch have found that political giving, especially in the $10,000-$15,000 range, correlates well with the capacity to make very large gifts. It will be interesting to see how the disclosure will work and if it will give prospect researchers a more accurate gauge of donor wealth. Please chime in if you have insights to share.

Mitch Roberson, President, APRA MidSouth