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Plouffe: Obama's Finance Team Wanted an Online ATM

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, November 12 2009

As others have noted, David Plouffe's book on his time as campaign manager of Obama for America is surprisingly open and candid, more Dreams from my Father than the anodyne Audacity of Hope. Even only a few dozen pages in, there are revealing glimpses of the role that technology, the Internet, and the Obama '08 new media team played billion-dollar organization that Plouffe engineered. From the outside, the machine seemed well-oiled. Inside, things were not always so smooth. There are tantalizing glimpses of how new media interacted, sometimes not without friction, with the more traditional elements of a presidential campaign, particularly fundraising and field. Plouffe on building a new media team:

The new media group (online communications, Web-page development and maintenance, texting) in most campaigns reports to the communications department, and its department head is not considered an equal of other senior staff. But I saw how important the burgeoning online world was to our overall success; new media would touch just about every aspect of our campaign. So I had that department report directly to me. To find us new talent we enlisted one of Barack's law school classmates, Julius Genachowski, who was steeped in the technology world. He identified our director of new media, Joe Rospars, a veteran of Howard Dean's revolutionary new media effort in 2004. Joe seemed to relish the challenge of marrying digital technology and strategy with a strong grassroots campaign.

And here he is on the early tensions between the new media team and those ultimately responsible for raising the tremendous amounts of money to mount a credible primary challenge against Hillary Clinton:

We raised $4 million online, a significant amount but far less than our fund-raisers wanted. Our new media team were very careful about how often we asked people for money by e-mail. We wanted our online contributors to have a balanced experience with us, thinking that if they felt part of and connected to the whole campaign, they might be more generous over time. The fund-raisers, who felt the pressure I was putting on them to post a big number, wanted to ask for as much as possible, as often as possible, starting right away. These were some of the tensest disputes I had to navigate throughout the whole campaign, and they left a lingering sore spot that did not heal for over a year. The finance team really believed that the new media team was underperforming financially, and the new media team thought the finance team viewed them and our supporters as an ATM.

Here's hoping that sort of transparency holds up past page 54.