Data Glitches and Immigration Disputes on The Road to 2016


The Democratic Presidential race got interesting this week thanks to a quirk in a software used by campaigns. I’ve worked with this software before and can try to explain what went down.

Many campaigns use a service called NGP VAN. It tracks data about volunteering from at least as far back as ‘04. It is used to recruit volunteers and reach out to voters. About 1/3rd of all campaign activity is based on sensitive information on NGP VAN.

The Clinton campaign launched earlier than Sanders' campaign did, and likely called every former volunteer from every big or small race as far back as ‘04 and asked if they would lend their time to the Clinton campaign. They take notes so if someone is a Sanders (or O’Malley) supporter they stop calling. At this point the Clinton campaign has an insane amount of data about volunteers.

A glitch occurred in NGP VAN that allowed the Sanders campaign to be able to see how the Clinton people scored possible volunteers. some data was then saved by the Sanders Campaign. If the Sanders campaign used this stolen data, they would have been able focus on the active volunteers that are strong Sanders supporters, recruit them to work volunteer shifts, and save thousands of hours of cold calls thanks to the work of the Clinton campaigners.

However, the Democratic National Committee, which had already been accused of favoring Clinton’s campaign came down with a hard punishment against the Sanders campaign, suspending their access to NGP VAN (access which has since been returned). As I mentioned before, work done of NGP VAN is about a third of all campaign activity. It would be virtually impossible for a campaign to function without access to it. So instead of the story being about stolen data, the story was about the national party and whether they were in favor of a particular candidate named Clinton.

This all went down hours before the Democratic debate on Saturday. I was super hyped. Finally Sanders and Clinton were gonna go after each other and there would be captivating television!

But that was not to be. Within minutes Sanders apologized, Clinton accepted it, no one formally accused the DNC of an abuse of power and we returned to a droll discussion of how to take down ISIS. It was like one of those prize fights in the 80s where Mike Tyson knocked out his opponent so quick you didn’t even get a chance to eat a single chicken wing before it’s ended.

While we are on the subject of boring debates, does anyone really want to hear these ISIS questions? The candidates from both parties keep saying the same things! I want a debate with irreverent questions that put candidates on the spot and allow us to see how their brains work, not a test of who has written the best talking points. But that might just be me...


In my opinion the most important policy statement of the campaign went down last Monday when Donald Trump took the bold stance that Pete Rose should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Dude got more base hits than anyone else in the history of the game, he needs to be in Cooperstown! Think about all the segregationists, philanderers and drug users in the hall, adding a gambler wouldn’t be too bad.

Non-baseball stuff went down in the GOP primary last week as well, including the first debate after the Paris attacks and shootings in San Bernardino.

I presumed the debate would be a showdown between the man leading national polls (Donald Trump) and the man leading Iowa polls (Ted Cruz) but the two were so buddy-buddy during the debate that they reminded me of Goose and Maverick from Top Gun. That being said, there were skirmishes aplenty during Tuesday’s debate. Jeb Bush called Trump a “chaos candidate," and then Trump made fun of Bush’s lack of popularity in the polls. Chris Christie said he’d shoot down Russian planes if they violated no fly-zones, prompting Rand Paul to say “If you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate,” and then bringing up Bridgegate.

The disagreement I found most interesting was a series of arguments between sons of Cuban immigrants, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, about immigration policy. Rubio was one of the faces of a failed immigration bill from 2013 that would have created a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the states. Cruz attacked Rubio supporting any policy granting legal status to immigrants that crossed borders illegally, but in 2013 Cruz submitted his own proposal that would have granted some sort of legal status to undocumented immigrants. So the gist of this fight is that Cruz thinks Rubio is too relaxed on immigration, while Rubio is accusing Cruz of lying and saying different things to different audiences for political expediency.

They also talked about the Internet. Some want to shut down parts. None of them (and no Democrats either) seem to know how the Internet actually works. I barely have a concept of how the internet works and I write my own emails and manage a Facebook page. These guys and gals use blackberry’s or flip phones, there is no way any of them can speak competently on it, but I loved hearing them struggle to improvise on the subject they know so little about.

Flip phone owner Lindsay Graham decided to drop out today, I wonder where his 0.3% of the vote will go?

Lastly, Trump got a some big international praise from Russian President Vladimir Putin that has been mocked by a couple other candidates.