If you’re a Democrat, and if you have ever gone on record with a Democratic election or race, how do you feel about that information being sold to credit card companies? Think it can’t happen? Think again.
We can all relate to wanting to ensure political candidates understand the issues and which ones are more important to each of us. It’s part of the American democratic process, after all. All of this information provided to Democrats, including those issues, political considerations and other opinions just might be up for sale. And who the buyers are might surprise you.
Democrats in at least one state – Pennsylvania – are hoping that both credit card companies and retailers that offer their own exclusive credit cards, like Target and JCPenney, will want your opinions and they’re willing to put a price tag on them.
Last year, PA Democratic party leaders have founded a group, known as the National Voter File Co-op, with the goal of selling the information they gathered to what’s being called “pre approved groups” with the goal of recovering lost money when their candidates weren’t elected. They’re also hoping to turn a tidy profit, too.
Now, while most of the information that’s up for sale is already public, the question is why any financial entity would care to pay for it. It’s quite simple, actually. Not only is the information nicely bundled, but it’s been sorted by voter’s preferences and other statistics regarding abortion, gun control and other issues. And that’s what could provide these card companies the kind of raw information they’re seeking. There are intricate formulas used to provide statistics and other voter/consumer sentiment.
Here’s what’s most interesting: the information has already been sold to different groups. Now, though, new money paying clients are being sought out and the one area that’s not already buying this unique information is the financial sector. Specifically, credit card companies and those aforementioned retailers. The NAACP is already paying for this data.
Drew Brighton of TargetSmart Communications, which provides a role in administering and then marketing the data, said in an interview,
That’s one of our growth areas and over the next six months, we are going to go ahead and make the rounds with some corporate prospects.
He believes retailers would want this kind of information because they might want to know whether Republicans or Democrats are shopping their aisles.
Another state, Minnesota, is on its own mission. Ken Martin, who’s the chairman for the Minnesota Democratic, Farmer and Labor Party, explains that the wealth of information could “potentially benefit corporations or business interests”. He then said that his group’s goal is to determine who wants what and how much they’re willing to pay for it, “Everything is on the table, nothing is off the table”. Still, each state’s Democratic Party will ultimately decide whether or not it will sell its voters’ data for commercial gain. It’s not mandatory and if a state feels it’s too invasive, it can simply opt out of participating. There are also state laws that must be considered. Some states only allow information – even if it’s public – to be used in predetermined manners. Mostly, it has to be political in nature.
There are those, too, that expressly prohibit commercial use. As with most laws, there are loopholes. There are no state laws that make it illegal to use or sell information that was determined in other manners, even if the specifics came from public records. For instance, the formulas used to sort and determine other information can be freely sold. This is what Democrats are banking on – and they’re betting that credit card companies especially will want to know what kind of information has been collected. The co-ops are free to do what they want with the information.
But there are risks. There are few things worse for a political party than to anger its entire database.
Obviously, we know we could make money off our file, but it always comes back to the question of, at what cost?
Brighton said. He then went on to reiterate evaluations are continuing on a case by case basis.
I’m not opposed to selling the data if it’s a corporation who shares our values and is going to do some good work with that data.
But, he says, Wal Mart wouldn’t qualify. It’s not clear why Target would, yet Wal Mart wouldn’t. It might not matter because Wal Mart can’t be bothered to make a comment anyway. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any retailers willing to comment. It looks like they may not be interested in how you and I vote at the polls.
Or, then again, it could be that they’re getting the low down from other sources, like the credit bureaus. In fact, they have deals with banks, retailers, card companies and any other business entity who wants it. Political beliefs, donations, buying habits – it’s all for sale. More than 100 retailers, including J. Crew, Aeropostle, Footlocker and others have long since paid for that kind of information. It begs the question: how did the Dems not know this already?
This is causing alarm on other levels, too. The fact that the late arrivals (the Democratic party) are managing to raise money suggests the window of opportunity is still open and in fact, the demand is increasing.
Of course, the picture isn’t complete until you consider President Obama and his recent Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. Turns out, the Obama Administration doesn’t mind that kind of information being sold – provided it’s used in ways you and I expect. If a company opts to share personal information in a new way, Obama believes it should notify the consumers who are affected and provide them with choices about how their data is used. It may be, though, that there’s not going to be much to worry about on that front. In order for the bill to be passed into law, the Obama Administration will need to get approval from Congress. We all know that’s not likely to happen, not because the Republicans necessarily disagree, but mostly because they’re not interested in agreeing with the Democrats about anything.
Finally, it should be noted that the Republicans have gone on record to vehemently affirm it does not, nor will it likely ever, sell its information to anything,
It hasn’t happened in the past and it won’t in the future,
said a spokesperson for the party.