Person

Laura Quinn

Nationality:

American

Occupation:

Political appointee and left-progressive operative

Laura Quinn is the president and co-founder of Catalist, a data firm that services both left-of-center nonprofits and Democratic candidates and officeholders. She has held numerous positions for Democratic candidates and officeholders, most prominently as Deputy Chief of Staff for former Vice President Al Gore. Quinn has also worked for former U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Joe Biden (D-DE).

According to TIME, Quinn has operated “a nameless, secret project” that attempts to combat “disinformation online” and “dangerous lies.” [1] Quinn used her research to foment a campaign pressuring social media companies to cleanse their site of what she considered false information. Such language has been called out as dystopian “censorship” by critics on both sides of the political spectrum, who point out that silencing online expression has dire implications for freedom of speech. [2]

Early Life and Education

Laura Quinn graduated from George Washington University in 1982, and worked for the Brookings Institution as a research assistant for a year. [3] She left in 1983 to assume her first political role as national advance director for former U.S. Senator Gary Hart‘s (D-CO) first failed presidential campaign.

In 1988, she graduated from the London School of Economics with a master’s degree in international economics. When she returned to America, she was hired as Jesse Jackson’s national advance director for his 1988 failed presidential campaign.

After a brief stint as an economic legislative assistant for then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), Quinn became the communications director for then-Senate candidate Carl Levin. This position successfully carved out Quinn’s niche as a communications specialist, and after her role as convention press secretary for President Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, she worked for 6 years as communications director for Sen. Rockefeller. [4]

In 1997, she left the Sen. Rockefeller’s office to become executive director of the U.S. Senate Technology and Communications Committee. [5] In 1999, she left her directorship to become communications director for then-Vice President Gore’s failed 2000 presidential campaign. [6]

As an experienced Democratic operative, Quinn was named an advisor to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), assisting in the DNC’s outreach during the 2004 presidential elections. [7] In 2005, Quinn left the DNC to begin Catalist with political operative Harold Ickes.

Catalist

According to coverage by the New York Times, Quinn and Ickes began Catalist to combat “the sophisticated voter databanks” that the Republican Party had during the 2004 presidential election. [8] Quinn had expressed dissatisfaction with the DNC’s databanks during the election, saying that they had been working with “a non-relational, poorly designed system with no bulk email capability, a website that was essentially a brochure, and very little organization.” [9]

Due to Quinn’s personal ties with the Clinton family, Catalist provided voter research to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential campaign. [10] Catalist also provided research to former President Barack Obama‘s 2008 presidential campaign and quickly became the largest voter data provider for federal Democratic elections. [11]

In 2018, Catalist was sued by rival voter data provider, TargetSmart, the DNC’s official data partner since 2012.  In an attempt to lure TargetSmart into disclosing confidential information about its business, Quinn had used a writer affiliated with Catalist to pretend to be an official attempting to buy out TargetSmart in order to glean confidential information from its employees. She masqueraded the writer’s questioning as “part of the [purchasing company’s] due diligence process.” [12] After the CEO of TargetSmart reached out to Catalist board member and then-AFL-CIO political director Mike Podhorzer about her behavior, Podhorzer stated that he did not agree with Ms. Quinn’s actions and promised that the inquiries would stop.” [13]

In the buildup to the 2020 presidential election, Quinn engaged in a white TIME would call a “nameless, secret project” that attempted to remove what she considered to be “dangerous lies.” Her efforts were credited with being heavily influential with social media heads, such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. [14]

Political Contributions

Laura Quinn contributed to U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)’s and President Biden’s 2020 presidential campaigns. During the primaries, she was evidently a supporter of Sen. Warren, donating $375 to her campaign. After the primaries, however, she donated over $3,000 to the Biden for President campaign committee. She is also a frequent donor to ActBlue, a fundraising platform for Democratic candidates and campaigns. [15]

References

  1. Ball, M. (2021, February 04). The secret Bipartisan campaign that saved the 2020 Election. Retrieved February 11, 2021, from https://time.com/5936036/secret-2020-election-campaign/ ^
  2. Burgis, B. (n.d.). The left should oppose censorship by big tech companies. Retrieved February 11, 2021, from https://www.jacobinmag.com/2021/01/censorship-big-tech-facebook-twitter ^
  3. Quinn, L. (n.d.). Laura Quinn – LinkedIn. Retrieved February 11, 2021, from https://www.linkedin.com/in/laura-quinn-b4272012/ ^
  4. Lawrence, J. (1992, July 10). Still holding out on Endorsing Clinton: Jesse Jackson, Jerry Brown. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://apnews.com/article/608458d6c627cbb939a3787bf18271fe ; Quinn, L. (n.d.). Laura Quinn – LinkedIn. Retrieved February 11, 2021, from https://www.linkedin.com/in/laura-quinn-b4272012/ ; Laura Quinn. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2021, from http://trumancenter.org/team-view/laura-quinn/ ^
  5. Quinn, L. (n.d.). Laura Quinn – LinkedIn. Retrieved February 11, 2021, from https://www.linkedin.com/in/laura-quinn-b4272012/ ^
  6. Lilienthal, S. (1999, April 30). INTERNATIONAL: Gore NAMES Quinn as Comms director. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.prweek.com/article/100312/international-gore-names-quinn-comms-director ^
  7. Reich, B. (2005, April 18). Please standby…the dnc is still experiencing technical difficulties. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://personaldemocracy.com/content/please-standby%E2%80%A6-dnc-still-experiencing-technical-difficulties ^
  8. Wayne, L. (2008, April 12). Clinton aide’s Databank VENTURE breaks ground in Politicking. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/12/us/politics/12vote.html ^
  9. Reich, B. (2005, April 18). Please standby…the dnc is still experiencing technical difficulties. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://personaldemocracy.com/content/please-standby%E2%80%A6-dnc-still-experiencing-technical-difficulties ^
  10. Verini, J. (2007, December 12). Big brother Inc. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2007/12/aristotle200712 ^
  11. Wayne, L. (2008, April 12). Clinton aide’s Databank VENTURE breaks ground in Politicking. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/12/us/politics/12vote.html ^
  12. Wilson, R. (2018, June 29). Dem data firm sues rival over alleged theft of trade secrets. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/394826-dem-data-firm-sues-rival-over-alleged-theft-of-trade-secrets ^
  13. Miller, S. J. (2018, June 29). DEMOCRATIC DATA GIANTS SET FOR COURTROOM SHOWDOWN. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.campaignsandelections.com/campaign-insider/democratic-data-giants-set-for-courtroom-showdown ^
  14. Ball, M. (2021, February 04). The secret Bipartisan campaign that saved the 2020 Election. Retrieved February 11, 2021, from https://time.com/5936036/secret-2020-election-campaign/ ^
  15. Laura Quinn FEC Contributions. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2021, from https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/individual-contributions/?contributor_name=Laura+Quinn&contributor_city=Washington&two_year_transaction_period=2010&two_year_transaction_period=2012&two_year_transaction_period=2014&two_year_transaction_period=2016&two_year_transaction_period=2018&two_year_transaction_period=2020&min_date=01%2F01%2F2019&max_date=12%2F31%2F2020 ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Analyst Institute (For-profit)
    Board Member
  2. Brookings Institution (Non-profit)
    Former Research Assistant
  3. Catalist (For-profit)
    Co-Founder/President & CIO
  4. Clinton Administration (Government Agency)
    Former Deputy Chief of Staff to the V.P.
  5. Democracy Alliance Conferences (Other Group)
    Participant, Spring 2014; Spring 2016; Fall 2016; Fall 2017; Spring 2018; Spring 2019; Fall 2019
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