Of Democracy and Dive Bars.
The Birth Of Jefferson’s List
Imagine, if you will, two frustrated young politicos sitting in a dark bar in Philly. They are only recently friends, having been connected by former Obama Campaign colleagues who insisted they get to know each other. They were, until this point, separated by a proverbial wall with one working for a SuperPAC and the other working for a supported candidate. But on this day, tall beer glasses in hand, they are venting about how hard it is to find talent to work with in politics and how frustrated they are that no one is ever held accountable for their mistakes or properly rewarded for their successes. They commiserate well into the evening, until they arrive at the same question; “Why don’t we have something like Yelp for politicos?”
That was us in September of 2015. Little did we realize that this question asked in a dimly lit dive on a Wednesday night would be the founding question of Jefferson’s List. As we moved into the fall, we continued to play with the idea. We realized that tech was the answer to the “I know a guy” hiring practices of electoral politics. These practices lead to campaigns being staffed in much the same way people found mechanics in the 1970s (and with similarly terrible outcomes). Not only could we build an access platform for the industry, but we started with a major advantage. Every dollar spent in the political process is publicly available. Any citizen with the time and drive can find out how much candidates spend and on who/what they spend it on. That means, with enough time and effort, we can know everyone who works in the industry, and who they’ve worked for over the course of their career.
Now we aim to make our product something that can truly change the business of politics. We thought it would to be hard to break into this market, which is often portrayed as backward looking instead of forward thinking. Yet time after time we go to established professionals, party officials, candidates, and elected officials who scream, “Where has this been!” Our site is going to be so much more than we’ve launched so far. We aim not just to be a place for candidates to find consultants and vice versa, but a one-stop shop for anything and everything professionally political. We’re creating a jobs board to help young operatives connect with their ideal candidates and analytics around how campaigns spend their money. We’ll bring in guest writers to tell their war stories and share their best (and worst) practices in the industry. And we’ll highlight campaigns, candidates, and professionals whose work exceeds all expectations.
In the end our mission is clear; democratize politics. We hope you’ll join us.
Dan Siegel and TJ Hurst