Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, has been aiding Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign since 2014.
Schmidt met with John Podesta, longtime Clinton adviser, in April 2014, according to emails hacked by Russian activists and published by WikiLeaks. Soon thereafter he planned a tech-led White House run to include “more than 5000 paid employees and million(s) of volunteers,” one memo, sent to Clinton aide Cheryl Mills two weeks later, read.
Schmidt, a staunch Democrat, donated $5,000 to Barack Obama’s 2012 run for office, and consulted on tech matters.
This election he has not donated a penny. Instead he has leveraged his knowledge and contacts in the tech world to bring Clinton’s campaign up-to-date with leading edge data analysis and outreach.
One avenue is via The Groundwork, a startup that has billed $600,000 to the Clinton campaign thus far, and whose website consists solely of a gray-and-black logo that flickers in and out of vision.
The company was founded soon after Schmidt contacted Mills, in June 2014. Quartz reported on it back in October 2015.
The Groundwork helps gather and store the massive amounts of data generated by drives such as nationwide mail-outs. Schmidt has stressed that election data be moved to the cloud to ease scalability – and that information be kept on one, centralized database.
“Key is the development of a single record for a voter that aggregates all that is known about them,” read one message. “In 2016 smart phones will be used to identify, meet, and update profiles on the voter….[q]uite a bit of software is to be developed to match digital identities with the actual voter file with high confidence.”
Schmidt also stressed that “there be no special interests in the financing structure,” addressing concerns the campaign would be exploited for economic gain.
That will do little to allay fears among Donald Trump’s supporters that corporates are playing an undue role in electing the next US President. A number of Silicon Valley elites have backed Clinton financially.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has come under fire for leaking supposedly anti-Clinton material so close to the election, has previously claimed that Google is “directly engaged” in her campaign.
Trump’s leading tech advocate, Peter Thiel, doubled down on his support this week at a National Press Club meeting. “It’s not a lack of judgment that leads Americans to vote for Trump,” the Facebook investor said. “We’re voting for Trump because we judge the leadership of our country to have failed.”
The 2016 US Presidential Election will draw to a close next Tuesday after an almost-unprecedentedly vitriolic campaign trail.