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Ickes’ databank focuses on Democratic supporters

By Laurie Bennett

April 13, 2008 at 1:43pm

When the Republicans won the White House in 2000 and 2004, many attributed the victories to the GOP’s sophisticated voter databases.

A group of influential Democrats, including financier George Soros and political strategist Harold Ickes, decided to respond with new technologies targeting likely Democratic supporters.

With money from Soros, Ickes launched Catalyst, a private company that is providing data to both the Clinton and Obama campaigns.

As the New York Times noted in a story yesterday, Ickes stands to profit if either Democrat wins the White House.

The Times raises several questions about Catalyst operations:

· The company arose from two organizations Ickes led in the 2004 campaign - America Coming Together and Media Fund. The FEC found that the two groups had improperly engaged in campaign activities without registering as PACs and fined them a total $1.35 million.

· The Catalyst databank competes with a similar data compiled by the Democratic National Committee. Some believe that Ickes was motivated to start the company because of doubts he held about the efforts of Howard Dean and the DNC.

· As a private , for-profit company, Catalyst operates primarly outside government supervision.

“Wealthy people and unions are having a greater influence on the political process than the average small donor or the person who doesn’t donate,” Steve Weissman, associate policy director at the Campaign Finance Institute, told the Times. “It skews the political process toward those who have money.”

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