Crowdskout is CRM and civic engagement platform built for campaigns, nonprofits, and advocacy groups. The group has been close to right-wing politicians, parties and advocacy groups. It was hired by the Republican National Committee during the 2016 election cycle. The company was subjected to scrutiny for its ties to right-wing entrepreneur and policy advocate John Tillman and his organization the Illinois Policy Institute.
Tools within Crowdskout collect, sort analyze demographic data of voters and constituencies. It is also used for canvassing and phone banking, emailing and create forms or surveys to conduct marketing, advocacy and outreach. Croudskout contains a suite of different products. Advocate is used to connect target audiences "decision-makers via email, social media, and patch-thru calling." Operator is designed for "managing virtual phone banks." Daytripper is used to track the real-time progress of door-to-door canvassing. Quartermaster is used for selective data pooling and sharing.
News and Controversies
Connections to the Illinois Policy Institute and John Tillman
In February 2018, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether a series of financial deals improperly benefited Tillman and other leaders of the Illinois Policy Institute. These included allegations that Tillman and took advantage of tax exemptions for non-profits to improperly channel money to for-profit businesses. ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Sun-Times pointed out that Think Freely Media, a nonprofit Tillman founded and served as board president, gave a zero-interest $49,400 loan to Crowdskout, a for-profit company. Think Freely Media also gave $60,000 in interest-bearing loans to Crowdskout and gave grants to nonprofit organizations that hired Crowdskout. In an editorial, the Chicago Sun-Times stated that the abuse of tax exemptions by Tillman and the Illinois Policy Instiute should be investigated by the FBI.
Tillman reportedly used his connections and influence to get Crowdskout hired by high-profile clients. According to ProPublica, Tillman pitched Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner about Crowdskout, who hired the firm in 2016, paying it $200,000 to do market research for his campaign. It was also reported that the Illinois Republican Party hired Crowdskout in the fall of 2016, paying $37,307 for direct mailing support. ProPublica also suggests Tillman is paid a salary by Crowdskout.
Profiling of "Tech Trends" in Campaining
In an article on Campaigns and Elections, Scott Kaplan, Growth Engagement Manager at Crowdskout, discussed three "tech trends" that are important for campaigns to successfully utilize. All the technologies discussed in the article are incorporated into Crowdskout products. The first trend was "automated email marketing", which can automatically segment target audiences based on their internet activity and set up sequential emails to target audiences. Kaplan states that right-wing campaigns have been quicker to adopt this technology compared to liberal campaigns. The second trend is "audience and data management", which facilitates "all-in-one data visualization, ad management, and message distribution hubs." The third trend is chatbots for automated communication with donors and supporters. The chatbots can have data analytics included in the system.
Ties to ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
Crowdskout was founded in 2014. As of September 2017, it raised over $4 million in funding. The company experienced rapid growth during the 2016 election cycle, when it was hired by the Republican National Committee. Co-Founder and CEO Zack Christenson stated Crowdskout products were used to power the field operations of the RNC and were used by over 1,000 staffers.
- Zack Christenson, Co-Founder & CEO
- Shana Glenzer, CMO
- George Yates
- Lucy Caldwell
- Scott Kaplan, Growth Engagement Manager
Related PRWatch Articles
- Mary Bottari, Bradley Foundation Bankrolls Front Groups of Discredited PR Spin Doctor Richard Berman, May 9, 2017.
- Mick Dumke and Tina Sfondeles, Congressman Calls For Investigation Of Conservative Think Tank, "Chicago Sun-Times" and "ProPublica", February 15, 2018.
- Sun-Times Editorial Board, Illinois Policy Institute nonprofit tax status begs for FBI probe, "Chicago Sun-Times", February 12, 2018.
- Mick Dumke, As Conservative Group Grows In Influence, Financial Dealings Enrich Its Leaders, "ProPublica Illinois", February 8, 2018.
- Scott Kaplan, [3 Tech Trends Campaigns Are Jumping On https://www.campaignsandelections.com/campaign-insider/3-tech-trends-campaigns-are-jumping-on], "Campaigns & Elections", March 26, 2018.
- Mary Bottari, [Bradley Foundation Bankrolls Front Groups of Discredited PR Spin Doctor Richard Berman https://www.prwatch.org/news/2017/05/13240/bradley-foundation-bankrolls-front-groups-richard-berman], "PRWatch", May 9, 2017.
- Washington Life Magazine, Innovators & Disruptors: The Tech 25, November 7, 2017.
- Stephen Babcock, Shana Glenzer joins Crowdskout as CMO, "Technicaly DC", June 20, 2017.