Remember that we talked last week about the Koch brothers creation of an alternate political campaign structure independent of the Republican Party? Now i360, the data arm of that operation, is pulling staff from RNC itself:
Chuck DeFeo, the RNC deputy chief of staff who engineered a $100 million tech overhaul credited in part with the party’s 2014 midterm successes, gave notice earlier this month that he was exiting. The former George W. Bush 2004 online campaign manager will become the vice president of digital products at i360, a data and analytical powerhouse that will receive part of an $889 million cash infusion from the Koch Brothers and other conservative megadonors to help elect Republicans in 2016.
Darren Samuelsohn’s Politico article details other changes in RNC’s digital team, too, including the fact that Mindy Finn will be coming back to the committee as an interim digital directory. The article leaves us with the impression that i360 lured DeFeo away, though of course he could have had other reasons for leaving. Regardless, his move is a powerful demonstration of Kochs’ determination to build a strong political machine with or without help from the Republican party.
As for consequences, Democrats (and Republicans who might run afoul of the Kochs) will naturally add i360’s growth to their list of concerns for 2016 and beyond. DeFeo’s leap also relates to our discussion of a shortage of digital staff in general in the political campaign world, since it demonstrates yet another source of competition for scarce talent.
I’m struck by the Kochs’ independent political work for one final reason: it fits into a trend we’ve covered at Epolitics.com for years, the growth of political organizations and audiences that aren’t tied to a particular campaign or party. From MoveOn to Rush Limbaugh, new media channels have created the opportunity for political actors to form their own messaging and campaign institutions outside of the bounds long set by traditional political gatekeepers like parties and established media outlets. The Kochs are just the latest of a new breed of political influencers to create an independent power base, and they won’t be the last. They are, though, likely to be the wealthiest…in a political system that allows wealth to translate into power in profound ways.
Thanks to A Loyal Reader for sending in the Politico article, btw — nice catch, Dad.