GOP Chief Tech Officer Isn't Salaried Employee -- But Isn't Hurting, Either

Republicans Pay Their Top Tech Exec Four Times What Democrats' CTO Makes

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Andrew Barkett
Andrew Barkett

In April the stereotype of a tech-deficient Republican Party was reinforced by an anonymously-sourced Huffington Post article reporting that Republican National Committee Chief Technology Officer was being "shoved out."

But Federal Election Commission reports paint a different story.

Andy Barkett actually still serves as CTO for the top Republican Party organization -- but as a contractor, rather than a salaried employee. And while some suggested in April the party kept him around to save face, he's still earning a significant amount more than his salaried counterpart at the Democratic National Committee.

He took in around $137,000 between January and May in 2014 in compensation for consulting and IT services, according to FEC reports.

In contrast, this year Democratic National Committee CTO Andrew Brown earned around $31,000 in salary payments through June, the last month for which reports are available. Comparing a contractor to a salaried employee is not apples-to-apples. Mr. Barkett bills separately for at least some expenses; the RNC paid him separately this year for travel costs, for example. But the FEC this year's numbers show Mr. Barkett was paid more than four times as much as Mr. Brown, who oversees all of the DNC's technology operation including voter file management.

Mr. Barkett is "a contractor because we wanted to have as much flexibility as possible," said GOP spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. "We knew going in that we needed to move fast."

After Mr. Barkett started working with the RNC in June 2013, he began contracting with the party's data management partner, Data Trust, a San Mateo, Calif.-based corporate entity that serves right-leaning clients. He no longer contracts with Data Trust, focusing all his time on his RNC work. Mr. Barkett mainly works from the RNC's San Mateo location, a satellite office it established to bask in the glow of Silicon Valley's innovation halo.

The GOP has spent the last few election cycles struggling to achieve parity with the Democrats in the data analytics and technology departments.

Much of the initial work Mr. Barkett oversaw at the RNC is now completed and has been disseminated to state parties and field staff in preparation for the midterm elections this November. Now, said Ms. Kukowski, Mr. Barkett is looking ahead to 2016, determining, for instance, how best to help the party identify voters who have moved to new states.

Glassdoor, a jobs and career community, pegs the median national CTO salary, outside of the New York City market, at $150,000.

Splashy background
Before moving into the CTO position, Mr. Brown was the DNC's national data director. Mr. Barkett was a decidedly splashier hire: the RNC plucked him from Facebook, where he was an infrastructure and engineering exec, in June 2013. While at Facebook, Mr. Barkett "was in charge of dozens of engineers on six production engineering teams responsible for thousands of servers and scaling systems in mobile infrastructure, messaging, advertisements, newsfeeds, platforms, and payments," according to the RNC at the time.

Having a contractor CTO as opposed to one who's on salary is "not unheard of" and "not necessarily problematic," said Brian Fetherstonhaugh, CEO at OgilvyOne Worldwide, an agency specializing in the type of targeted marketing for corporate brands that political campaigns have gravitated towards in recent years.

Any CTO should "have a really good appreciation of all the best-in-breed technology and how it's changing, but will also have to have a really good understanding of how to integrate new technology into the enterprise, and that's hard to do if you're not there," added Mr. Fetherstonhaugh.

Though the DNC declined to comment on the record for this story, an inside source stressed that Mr. Brown collects additional benefits not reflected in the salary payments shown in the party's FEC filings.

Records show that Mr. Brown makes a significantly less than the man he replaced, DNC director of technology, Bryan Whitaker, who left the party in April 2013 for the Chief Operating Officer gig at DNC-linked data technology firm NGP VAN. FEC reports filed by the DNC show Mr. Brown's salary is approximately $5,450 per month compared to Mr. Whitaker's $7,200 per month.

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