Bloomberg’s secret data firm mislead recruits as DNC’s “primary platform”


It’s good to be a billionaire running for president. Did Michael Bloomberg decide to jump into the Democrat primary for the party’s presidential nomination because of the data he is receiving from his own digital business? More importantly, who even knew he owned a digital business called Hawkfish?

A little over a week ago, CNBC broke the story that Bloomberg secretly founded a digital business, Hawkfish, in the spring of 2019 as a means to fight against the Trump campaign’s top-notch digital team’s advantage in the 2020 election cycle. At the time he was not an announced candidate for president. That is an important detail.

Bloomberg, a billionaire former three-term mayor of New York, started building the company early in 2019, before he decided to seek the Democratic presidential nomination, the campaign aide said. While the campaign declined to say how much Bloomberg has invested in the company, Bloomberg has said he will spend over $100 million on anti-Trump digital ads. His campaign has already spent at least $13 million on Facebook and Google spots.

Bloomberg, who was dedicated to denying President Donald Trump a second term before he entered the Democratic race, built Hawkfish with the intention of overpowering the formidable data operation assembled by the Republican National Committee and Trump’s cash-flush campaign.

The fact that Hawkfish was founded allegedly before Bloomberg decided to enter the race is important as far as FEC laws go. If he built the company specifically for his own political campaign, that would have been a violation. Apparently it is not a violation since it is alleged he had not completely decided to run when he founded the company. No red flags will fly over it unless he doesn’t now begin to pay fair market value to the company for goods (data) received. In other words, he’ll be paying himself for data from his own company.

As I mentioned, this was all done in secret. There was no publicity when he started the company or when he began recruiting a team. There is no website and when CNBC investigated with the help of a research company, Accurint, the Fifth Avenue address used in the paperwork was one for Mike Bloomberg’s longtime accountant, Geller & Company. A campaign spokeswoman said it was just used as a place to accept paperwork. He turned to Silicon Valley for advice. Bloomberg is known for crediting data analytics for his success in business and in his public life as Mayor of New York City. His slogan is, “In God we trust. Everyone else bring data.” His campaign sells merchandise with that slogan.

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A year after he poured over $110 million to help elect Democrats in the 2018 congressional midterm elections, Bloomberg and his aides started to reach out to business leaders in the tech world to start exploring the idea of making a company that could help Democrats and combat Trump. Bloomberg himself met with the likes of longtime Silicon Valley investor Ron Conway and New York-based venture capitalist Fred Wilson.

Conway told CNBC in an email that he spoke with Bloomberg about the necessity of creating a digital counterweight to Trump and the Republican Party.

“It’s clear to me and other tech leaders that Trump and the GOP are better at creating and sharing engaging online content than anyone on the Democratic side,” Conway said in explaining his conversation with Bloomberg. “If we want to win in 2020 and beyond, we need to master the digital medium in our own effective way, including efficiently registering voters and sharing compelling content with the right audiences. The battle is being waged online and so far Democrats have been out-matched — if Mike can help us catch up, that will make a big difference.”

Now it is being reported that Hawkfish used “misleading” information in talent recruitment. The campaign is throwing a recruiting company under the bus. The claim that Hawkfish would be used by the DNC was not true.

The Bloomberg campaign said that the company Hawkfish hired to recruit talent, Andiamo Partners, mistakenly believed the data startup also had a contract with the DNC. Andiamo’s CEO, Patrick McAdams, did not respond to a request for comment.

Several potential hires received notices through LinkedIn in which they were informed that Hawkfish was working for both the Bloomberg campaign and the DNC. It wasn’t immediately clear how many recruiting targets received the erroneous pitch.

“The recruiting company mistook support for Democratic causes as Hawkfish working under contract with the DNC, which isn’t the case,” said Frazier, the Bloomberg aide.

This recruitment was taking place the same week Bloomberg announced his run for president in November. Potential recruits were told Hawkfish would be the “primary platform” for the DNC. The DNC, however, told Hawkfish that its pitches were misleading and that the firm’s claim was incorrect.

“We had previously alerted Hawkfish that the recruiting emails were incorrect and misleading,” Wessel told CNBC. Hawkfish then conceded to the DNC that the script sent to potential recruits wasn’t accurate, according to Wessel. It was corrected starting Dec. 2, said Michael Frazier, a Bloomberg campaign spokesman.

“The recruiting company mistook support for Democratic causes as Hawkfish working under contract with the DNC, which isn’t the case,” said Frazier, the Bloomberg aide.

I don’t know. It sounds kind of fishy to me. I know recruiters are aggressive but to make a leap to calling Hawkfish the “primary platform” for the DNC seems unlikely to me. That’s a big claim. Obviously people would jump to sign on to Hawkfish with that kind of potential opportunity being dangled in front of them. Maybe I’m just cynical. The recruiter using the claim has been removed from the account, though Hawkfish is still using the recruiting firm.

Some heavy-hitters are in Hawkfish’s leadership team. Facebook Chief Marketing Officer Gary Briggs and Jeff Glueck, the former CEO of Foursquare are two names mentioned.

Perhaps this is why Bloomberg jumped into the race. Maybe he has data that shows a path to grabbing the nomination. I have not yet heard anyone say anything about Bloomberg actually having a chance at such a thing but who knows? None of the other candidates have their own private digital data firm. It would certainly fall into place with the narrative that Bloomberg intends to just buy the election with his own money and forget about a traditional campaign.

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