Magazine article Politics Magazine

Google Can't Save Your Bacon

Magazine article Politics Magazine

Google Can't Save Your Bacon

Article excerpt

Who needs professional dirt diggers when you have Google, Wikipedia and, now, Bing? If you want your campaign messaging and decision making to stand up to the scrutiny of experienced journalists and inquisitive voters, don't rely on unsophisticated quick hits. Get professional help. In 2008, John McCain's presidential campaign relied largely on volunteers, and worse, first time staffers to research the opponent, vet workers and donors and develop rapid response messages. It isn't exactly a winning technique.

On the Internet information is assumed to be plentiful and free. But new information is being created every day. In just 18 of the 24 months between campaign cycles, the world doubles its total amount of information. Public records are available at no cost, but privately held information is more often protected--soon, even The New York Times will charge.

Less than 10 percent of information is available via systems which law enforcement agencies refer to as "Open Source" records. The rest is only available for sale from private sources, must be accessed directly from a government agency or is classified. Even the best and brightest who feverishly search their iPhones and Blackberries from the front seat of the campaign bus only have access to a mere fraction of all that is knowable. In the heat of battle, what you don't know can kill you.

Living through an entire campaign with a researcher who hasn't spent more than 10 minutes in a library or at a government office looking at original source documentation means you're really missing the mark. Find a voting record online or use an outdated database listing and you risk the health of your campaign on information that amounts to a placebo. As G.I. Joe repeats, "Knowing is half the battle."

Stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan is fond of saying real bacon bits are the fairy dust of food. Like pigs in swill, opposition research has a bad name but has been cultivated for 3,000 years. If it's given short shrift or not done properly, your campaign is at a major disadvantage. In business, politics or war, successful teams know their competition as well as, or better than they know their allies. The adage "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" was invented as a tag line to sell research.

The private sector engages in the strategic process and calls it B. …

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