A data firm backed by Eric Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Alphabet, Google's parent company, has been paid millions of dollars by Democratic committees and is currently working for Joe Biden's presidential campaign.
The idea for what became Civis Analytics emerged in the wake of President Obama's 2012 re-election when Schmidt pitched Dan Wagner, the campaign's chief analytics officer, on creating a lasting political data and website services firm. Schmidt, who remained an executive at Google and Alphabet, went on to quietly aid Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. Less than one month after the elections it was announced that he had helped round up $22 million for Civis, where he is also a partial owner and sits on the group's board of directors. In June, Schmidt stepped away as executive chairman of Alphabet, although he now acts as a technical advisor to the company’s leadership on policy issues.
Civis has provided data and tech services for a number of Democratic committees in recent years, with its most recent payments coming from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which paid $63,400 for polling and website services during the first quarter of the 2020 cycle; the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which dished $33,900 to the firm for data analytics; Planned Parenthood Votes, which also pushed $33,900 to Civis for data analytics; and NextGen Climate Action, liberal billionaire Tom Steyer's committee, which paid $16,000 for data and consulting services.
In addition to the committees, the presidential campaigns of Sens. Cory Booker (D., NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), and failed Senate candidate Robert "Beto" O'Rourke have also combined to pay tens of thousands for its services during the first three months of the year. Civis Analytics announced in late April that it will be working with Joe Biden's presidential campaign for the 2020 election cycle, Bloomberg reported. Civis appears to be expanding its political team in Washington and New York, according to job postings on its website.
Throughout the 2018 cycle, Civis collected more than $4 million from Democratic committees, filings show. Its biggest client throughout the midterm elections was the Senate Majority PAC, which cut more than $2 million worth of checks to the firm for research services.
Civis was "born" out of the Obama campaign, and the team that Schmidt had coached was credited with securing the president's reelection.
"Schmidt had a particular affinity for a group of engineers and statisticians tucked away beneath a disco ball in a darkened corner of the office known as ‘the Cave.' The data analytics team, led by 30-year-old Dan Wagner, is credited with producing Obama’s surprising 5 million-vote margin of victory," Bloomberg reported in 2013.
He maintained close ties with Democrat power players after 2012 as well. An attachment in the hacked emails of John Podesta and discovered by the Washington Free Beacon verified that Schmidt was working directly with Clinton's campaign. The memo mentioned the work being performed by "Eric Schmidt's group" but did not outright state its name.
Civis is not the only liberal tech firm that Schmidt has helped to launch with veterans of Obama's 2012 team. He provided funding to a tech startup called The Groundwork, which was launched by Michael Slaby, the chief integration and innovation officer for Obama's campaign. Slaby developed The Groundwork through another company he co-founded called Timshell. The Groundwork was ultimately paid nearly $700,000 for "technology services" by Clinton's campaign and Schmidt appeared at Clinton's election night "victory" party wearing a staff badge.
Schmidt did not respond to a request for comment on if he was advising leadership at Alphabet and Google on the 2020 elections. Google and Civis Analytics also did not respond to requests for comment regarding Schmidt.