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First POST: Bush League

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, April 22 2015

Bush League

  • It looks like the bulk of John Ellis (Jeb) Bush's still unannounced presidential campaign, currently raising unlimited amounts of money under the banner of his Super PAC Right to Rise, is going to stay there, at least through the primaries, reports Thomas Beaumont for the AP. Once he officially declares, he can no longer coordinate with the PAC, but that will hardly matter since a close confidant of Bush's, Mike Murphy, will run it. According to Beaumont's report, Right to Rise would handle everything from TV ads and direct mail to data gathering, online targeting, phone banking, GOTV and efforts to maximize early voting and absentee balloting. All without disclosing who is paying for it. But remember, as Bush tweeted: "Transparency matters."

  • Many of the other Republican candidates running are going to follow Bush's lead in letting their Super PACS run the show for them. In case you need a primer on what this means for American democracy, read Francis Wilkinson's take on Bloomberg View (and ignore if you can the irony that he's writing on a billionaire's soapbox).

  • Adding some personnel details to the Bush campaign, Maggie Haberman of The New York Times reports that Andy Barkett, who had a rocky time as the RNC's first CTO, "will be involved in a 'personalized data trust' that sells information to both Mr. Bush's campaign and his super PAC" and that "Sawan Tivakaran, a veteran of Facebook, is expected to play a leadership role in that group." Alex Lundry, a veteran of the Mitt Romney 2012 campaign and one of the GOP's top experts on analytics and targeting, "is expected to handle analytics for the campaign."

  • Bush also declared on the Michael Medved radio show that "the best part of the Obama administration would be his continuance of the protections of the homeland using the big metadata program," praising the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' phone records, reports Jonathan Easley for The Hill.

  • On Twitter, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a stalwart opponent of the bulk surveillance program, responded: "You can't make this stuff up: Jeb's actually running on a platform of unconstitutionally spying on all Americans."

  • To sum up Bush's approach: maximum privacy for his mega-donors, minimal privacy for the American people.

  • The Hillary Clinton campaign wants to raise $100 million for the Democratic primary, reports Amanda Terkel for The Huffington Post, aiming to maximize the participation of people giving the legal limit of $2,700.

  • In 2012, the percentage of the adult American population that gave $2,500 or more to a candidate, PAC, or party committee was .1, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. That is, about 235,000 people. That's who is voting right now.

  • From hip to hip replacement: The White House is planning a "Demo Day" for entrepreneurs, with a focus on startups that increase diversity. Gosh, I remember when demos at the White House meant something completely different.

  • Alex Howard digs into yesterday's Pew Research Center report on open government data, talking to its principal researcher John Horrigan.

  • The chairman of the UK's Conservative Party, Grant Shapps, is suspected by Wikipedia's administrators of using an account to not only edit his own page (bad form, Grant!) but to also make "unflattering changes" to the online pages of other senior figures in his own party, Randeep Ramesh reports for the Guardian. Political edits to Wikipedia: the gift that never stops giving.

  • Media critic Jay Rosen makes a plea to Facebook executives who keep refusing to talk about the editorial impact of News Feed and the decisions they make about what it shows Facebook's billion-plus users: "Stop treating us like children at a Passover seder who don't know enough to ask a good question…what are you optimizing for, along with user interest? How do you see your role within a news ecosystem where you are more and more the dominant player? In news, you have power now. It is growing. Help us understand how you intend to use it. What kind of filter do you intend to be? What kind of player… playing for what?"

  • Pacific Standard's Susie Cagle reports on the efforts of racial justice organizer Bhavik Lathia of Color of Change, who has made it his business to pressure crowdfunding platforms GoFundMe and Indiegogo when they profit from people raising money for racist causes or cops who kill. “My experience tells me that these companies will stay on the sidelines and claim neutrality unless we push them to get involved and take a stand,” Lathia says. “So when we see them doing something unjust, it is our responsibility, as the public, to raise an uproar—often using the same platforms that we’re critiquing.”

  • Hollaback! is raising funds on Kickstarter for HeartMob, a platform that aims to provide real-time support to individuals experiencing online harassment. (h/t Cameron Russell)

  • Related: Twitter's director of product management Shreyas Doshi blogs that the company is making changes in its violent threats policy that broadens what it will prohibit to include "threats of violence against others or promot[ing] violence against others," stating that the previous policy "was unduly narrow and limited our ability to act on certain kinds of threatening behavior." The company is also warning that it may lock abusive accounts for specific periods of time, and it says it is testing a new feature to help identify suspected abusive tweets and limit their reach.

  • This is cool: Alexis Hope and Kevin Hu, two students of Ethan Zuckerman's at the MIT Center for Civic Media, have built a beautiful new storytelling platform called FOLD, which enables writers to create an unfolding reading experience seasoned by images, video, audio, graphs that complement the narrative without interrupting it. The platform makes it very easy to find and add material from Vimeo, YouTube, Flickr, Imgur and Soundcloud. I made a short piece for the launch, which you can read here.

  • Al Jazeera's Dan Boaden reports on Public Lab's success making cheap and easy-to-use DIY tools that environmental activists are using all over the world to combat local pollution. (Full disclosure: I'm on Public Lab's board.)

  • Self described "civic tech junkie" Katie Stebbins is joining Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development as its new assistant secretary of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.