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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

Who Is Chuck Pruitt?

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Glad you asked. Chuck Pruitt is a member of the UW Board of Regents. But his day job is Co-Managing Director of The A.B. Data Group -- a company that has pocketed an eye-popping $29.5 million from the Obama campaign for data collection, fund raising etc. A former president of the board of regents, Pruitt brags on his company's website that "Chuck led the team that worked for Obama For America, fulfilling a dream to elect the most transformative political figure to emerge in this country in his lifetime and raising almost $106 million in the mail from over 700,000 donors."

Pruitt's Obama-tie is especially interesting in light of the controversy over today's Obama's visit to UW.

Yesterday, several professors raised substantive questions about the university's handling of Obama's visit to campus today, including the requirement that students provide the campaign with personal data (there's that word again) as a condition of getting tickets. UW—Madison Political science Professor Kenneth R. Mayer specifically noted:

(1) In order for students to get a ticket for this event (which doesn’t even guarantee entry), the University is requiring them to go to the Obama campaign website, provide contact information, and then click on a button that says “I’m In!” In a very real sense, we are forcing them to become participants in the campaign and express their support for the campaign. This is SOP for a campaign event, but it should not be for the University. Having a president visit as an educational public event is one thing. Forcing students to declare their support for a presidential candidate in order to attend the event on campus is quite another. Should we be in the business of helping a campaign farm thousands of email addresses?

All of which raises several questions. What role will AB Data play in the compilation and use of the data that the Obama campaign will collect today? Will the data be used for fund raising? For get out the vote efforts?

Additionally, the profs wondered why UW-Madison was so willing to allow the campaign to disrupt the universities operations.

(2) The location of the rally could not be more disruptive. It hardly seems appropriate to shut the central campus down for an entire day, closing offices and seriously disrupting our mission. I have several colleagues who had scheduled exams for Thursday. Surely there were other venues that would pose less disturbance.

What role did Pruitt play in establishing UW's policies relating to political events such as the one today? What communications did he have with the UW administration about today's event? What role is he playing in today's rally on behalf of his client, Barack Obama?

Here is the link to the Slate story that reports on the Obama campaign's heavy use of Pruitt's data firm:

Similarly, Obama spent 82 times more than Romney in Wisconsin, but $29.5 million went to a single Milwaukee-based direct marketing company, AB Data.

For detailed information on how each campaign is spending its money, see the Federal Election Commission’s data on campaign expenditures.

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