Several presidential candidates are likely to sign contracts allowing them to simultaneously receive voter profiles from both the Republican National Committee and i360, a rival data warehouse managed by the political network associated with Koch Industries. Paul, however, seems to be following a different path—one that will allow him to maintain full control of any data collected by his campaign or affiliated super-PAC and set up a distinct power base beyond 2016 entirely independent of the #Republican Party.
Paul is the only one of the party’s candidates trying to assemble a full-fledged presidential campaign who has refused to sign a so-called data agreement with the RNC. This is a standard arrangement in both parties, designed to permit candidates to benefit from one of few durable resources in American politics: a national party’s voter database. In exchange for access to it, candidates pledge that after the election they will enrich the database by returning intelligence gathered on the electorate through their interactions with individual voters.
Thus far, according to a party official who asked not to be named in order to freely discuss the committee’s internal mechanics, 11 of the party’s presidential candidates have signed a data agreement with the RNC. The others who have have yet to sign a data agreement are all those who are are new to the race or have otherwise shown signs of mounting something other than a conventional, well-rounded national campaign: businessman Donald Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former New York Governor George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore, former Governor of Virginia. Party officials have had conversations with Ohio Governor John Kasich’s political team, and anticipate he will eventually sign one, according to a person familiar with the talks. (Data agreements are available only to those who have made their candidacy official; Kasich did so only this week.)
Voter data is essential in running a modern campaign. But the rise of a competing data warehouse, i360, managed by the Kochs’ Freedom Partners, has given candidates the choice of opting out of the party structure altogether. A Freedom Partners spokesman, James Davis, refused to identify specific clients, citing non-disclosure agreements. However, it is widely understood that i360—a private company in which turning a profit is a concern secondary to electoral impact—is eager to serve as a data provider to multiple Republican candidates.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is living up to his promise to run for president as a “different kind of Republican.” His campaign appears to have decided that he can win the nomination without even basic help from party bosses, and that if he comes up short his loss should not serve to strengthen their infrastructure.