For-profit

Mothership Strategies

Website:

mothershipstrategies.com

Formation:

2014

Type:

Left-Wing Political Consulting Firm

Headquarters:

Washington, D.C.

Founders:

Jake Lipsett

Greg Berlin

Charles Starnes

Mothership Strategies is a Democratic Party-aligned digital strategy firm that was founded in 2014 by Greg Berlin, Jake Lipsett, and Charles Starnes. All three men worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).[1]

The company adopts a “churn and burn” strategy for its online fundraising, often sending emails that the left-of-center New Republic described as a “wildly deceptive, unrelenting approach that treats supporters like garbage.”[2]

Mothership Strategies has previously worked with multiple candidates for the Democratic Party including now-U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) and unsuccessful House special election candidates Jon Ossoff (D-Georgia) and Rob Quist (D-Montana). The company also works with Democratic-aligned PAC’s including the Progressive Turnout Project, Equality PAC, and Bold PAC.[3] It also works for End Citizens United; a PAC founded in 2015 by Berlin, Lipsett, and Starnes.[4]

Founding

In 2014, Greg Berlin, a former digital campaign director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC);[5] Charles Starnes, former deputy digital director of the DCCC; and ex-congressional staffer Jake Lipsett founded Mothership Strategies as a liberal Democratic-aligned digital strategy firm.[6] Since its creation, Mothership Strategies has worked with multiple candidates of the Democratic Party to boost online fundraising through email marketing and target younger voters using social media.[7]

Political Activities

Mothership Strategies has been an essential organization for the Democratic Party as multiple campaigns have paid the company millions of dollars for its services.

Jon Ossoff (Georgia)

One of the firms most notable clients was Jon Ossoff, who employed the company during a 2017 special election for U.S. Representative from Georgia. With the help of Mothership Strategies, Ossoff received over $23 million in total contributions, the majority of which came from individuals who lived outside of Georgia.[8] Ossoff spent $22.5 million during the campaign, and Mothership Strategies received $3.9 million of that amount for its assistance during the campaign.[9]

Despite receiving enormous financial support, Ossoff ultimately lost the election, prompting members of the Democratic Party to question the effectiveness of the “churn and burn” email campaign Mothership Strategies helped develop. A former digital fundraising manager for the Presidential campaign of left-wing U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) called the email strategy a “wildly deceptive, unrelenting approach that treats supporters like garbage,” due to its “brutal math centered” approach.[10]

Rob Quist (Montana)

Mothership Strategies was also employed by Rob Quist to assist his campaign in Montana’s 2017 congressional special election. Quist paid the company nearly $1.1 million for its work, although his campaign would ultimately fail.[11]

Doug Jones (Alabama)

Doug Jones also used the company during the 2017 Alabama special election, paying Mothership just under $7 million.[12] Mothership cites the social media company Snapchat as a reason for Jones’ win, claiming that the “geofilter option,” which allows users to customize their photographs with designs that are available in certain locations, was a “great solution for honing in on the younger African-American demographic, without advertising to the more conservative voters that surrounded them.”[13]

Other Clients

Mothership Strategies lists multiple Democratic-aligned political action committees as clients. PACs such as the Progressive Turnout Project, Equality PAC, and Bold PAC are some of the committees that have employed Mothership Strategies.[14]

End Citizens United

Also see End Citizens United (PAC)

One of the biggest clients for Mothership Strategies is End Citizens United (ECU), a group closely associated with Mothership. The $21 million PAC was founded by Berlin, Lipsett, and Starnes in 2015, ostensibly to support the Democratic Party by overturning the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC.[15] The group founded by Mothership’s proprietors is reportedly Mothership’s largest non-candidate client.[16]

End Citizens United uses the same fundraising strategy that Mothership helped develop for Jon Ossoff. Within its first year, the PAC raised $11 million, mostly from small online donations. During the 2016 election cycle, ECU paid Mothership Strategies $3.3 million; the PAC paid the firm another $2.7 million for its services in the 2018 mid-term election cycle. [17] [18]

References

  1. Schoffstall, Joe. “Former DCCC Insiders’ Firm Banked Millions From Ossoff’s Failed Campaign.” Washington Free Beacon. June 23, 2017. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://freebeacon.com/politics/former-dccc-insiders-firm-banked-millions-from-ossoffs-failed-campaign/.
  2. Jones, Sarah. “But Their Emails.” The New Republic. June 29, 2017. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://newrepublic.com/article/143615/democrats-emails-strategy-haywire.
  3. “Our Work.” Mothership Strategies. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://mothershipstrategies.com/our-work/.
  4. Blumenthal, Paul. “This Group Raised $11 Million To Defeat Citizens United. So Why Do People Hate Them?” HuffPost UK. April 21, 2016. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/end-citizens-united-pac-campaign-finance-reform_us_570e5308e4b0ffa5937da409.
  5. “Greg Berlin.” US Election Tour 2018. Accessed September 10, 2018. http://www.uselectiontour2018.com/speakers/35/greg-berlin.
  6. Samuelsohn, Darren, Geoffrey Kabaservice, Erick Trickey, Alondra De La Cruz, and Jack Shafer. “URGENT: Dems’ Email Bonanza.” About Us. August 07, 2014. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/urgent-democratic-emails-fundraising-bonanza-brandon-english-109775.
  7. “Services.” Mothership Strategies. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://mothershipstrategies.com/services/.
  8. Schoffstall, Joe. “$40 Million Has Been Spent In Georgia’s Record-Breaking Special Election.” Washington Free Beacon. June 16, 2017. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://freebeacon.com/issues/40-million-spent-georgias-record-breaking-special-election/.
  9. “Disbursements.” FEC.gov. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/?two_year_transaction_period=2018&data_type=processed&committee_id=C00630426&recipient_name=mothership strategies&min_date=01/01/2017&max_date=12/31/2018.
  10. Jones, Sarah. “But Their Emails.” The New Republic. June 29, 2017. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://newrepublic.com/article/143615/democrats-emails-strategy-haywire.
  11. “Expenditures.” OpenSecrets. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/expends/vendor.php?year=2018&vendor=Mothership Strategies.
  12. “Expenditures.” OpenSecrets. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/expends/vendor.php?year=2018&vendor=Mothership Strategies.
  13. “The Magazine for People in Politics.” Campaigns & Elections. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://www.campaignsandelections.com/campaign-insider/where-does-snapchat-fit-in-2018.
  14. “Our Work.” Mothership Strategies. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://mothershipstrategies.com/our-work/.
  15. Blumenthal, Paul. “This Group Raised $11 Million To Defeat Citizens United. So Why Do People Hate Them?” HuffPost UK. April 21, 2016. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/end-citizens-united-pac-campaign-finance-reform_us_570e5308e4b0ffa5937da409.
  16. Ludwig, Hayden. “Former Politicos Cash in on Democratic Dreams.” Capital Research Center. September 7, 2018. Accessed September 11, 2018. https://capitalresearch.org/article/former-politicos-cash-in-on-democratic-dreams/.
  17. “Expenditures.” OpenSecrets. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/expends/vendor.php?year=2016&vendor=Mothership Strategies.
  18. “Expenditures.” OpenSecrets. Accessed September 10, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/expends/vendor.php?year=2018&vendor=Mothership Strategies.
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