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Why Silicon Valley isn't eager to help GOP build its new data platform

By Michael Mayday , May 28, 2013 08:05 AM EDT
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The Republican National Committee, and the Republican party in general, is in dire need of a well-functioning data platform comparable to the one the Democratic party employed in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

Such a platform would need to centralize information on valuable voters while being flexible enough that outside groups and organizations would be able to use the platform to build applications.

Fortunately for the GOP, Dick Boyce, former partner at Bain & Co., and former CEO of J.Crew, is organizing such a platform. Unfortunately, Boyce hasn't been able to muster help from the Silicon Valley workers who would work on the platform.

It's not that Silicon Valley's engineers are politically against working for Republicans - though some are - it's that Boyce and the Liberty Works platform aren't communicating, or offering lucrative salaries, to the engineers who would be working on the much-needed platform.

"The Republican Party's technology is just so bad that anything anyone is going to do will improve it," said Chris Abrams, a Bay Area engineer, told Politico. "They're missing out. I don't think Dick understands that the price for a Silicon Valley engineer is well above the price in other parts of the country. Top talent is expensive."

The salary problem should be simple enough to solve with the backing of a national party, but the communication problem will be more difficult to overcome. It's a common thread in today's internal GOP politics: an older group of D.C. insiders try to reach outside the party for help using political economy tricks, which doesn't play well with the Bay Area's more progressive and libertarian mindset.

"The Bush administration was an old-economy White House. They looked at workers as costs, like you would pay your electric bills, rent, and your salaries," Democratic consulting Donnie Fowler said to The New Republic, explaining the nuances of Silicon Valley work ethos. "For the new economy, ninety percent of my assets walk out the door at 5:00 p.m. every day. They're people. That fundamental misunderstanding by Republicans has really kept the door closed for a long time. Republicans will come here and say, we're against regulation, we're against taxes. And that's not enough."

If the GOP plans on taking back the Senate in next year's elections, it will have to change how it approaches valley workers.

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