Who’s responsible for Project ORCA? Romney campaign silent

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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As of Friday, 10 days have passed since the Romney campaign lost the presidential election for Republicans, and the makers of the campaign’s over-hyped and extremely secretive Project ORCA election reporting tool are still nowhere to be found.

Senior campaign staff members are either hiding in silence, claiming ignorance about the project, or claiming they were not involved with it.

Ars Technica also reported early Thursday evening that internal campaign sources said that Project ORCA was powered by applications “developed by an internal ‘skunkworks,’ one made up of both campaign staffers and volunteers—not by a big-name consulting firm.”

Whether this is true or not is hard to say, if only because the campaign is in full “cover-your-ass mode” and anybody who did have anything to do with it has allegedly disappeared off the map.

Project ORCA was a reporting tool that would provide the campaign with real-time election day analytics for what was happening at the polls, which also would enable improved micro-targeting for a final get out the vote effort.

The tool displayed a list of registered voters and enabled Romney poll watchers to issue reports through their mobile devices.

The Romney campaign bragged that 91 percent of all counties reported into the system, but it also endured venomous criticism from members of its 34,000 strong volunteer force who experienced numerous technical difficulties with the reporting tool on election day.

ORCA’s server also shut down the morning of Election Day due to a high influx of server traffic — which was erroneously interpreted by the server to be a hacker attack. The server was restored 90 minutes later.

The plan was reportedly hatched by former campaign political director Rich Beeson and former deputy political director Dan Centinello. Neither man, nor former campaign manager Matt Rhoades, returned The Daily Caller’s request for comment for this report.

In an interview with The Huffington Post just days prior to the election, Centinello said that Romney would be at the command center with him watching Project ORCA in action.

The campaign team attempted post-election to sell Project ORCA as a success, but Republican voters demanding answers over a presidential election gone wrong were given the run-around.

When asked by Breitbart.com editor-in-chief Joel Pollak during a post-election blogger call whether there was a feeling by campaign staffers that they had let voters down, Rhoades went silent for five seconds and then responded, “Um, Joel, there’s a sense that we let Mitt Romney down.”

Rhoades proceeded to praise Romney’s virtues as a candidate, and explain the campaign’s problem with white voter turnout.

Centinello, whose name was all over the emails sent to ORCA volunteers, received his fair share of venom from the conservative blogosphere. As part of the Election Day fallout, a smear website — DanCentinello.com — was launched to mock his involvement.

The campaign’s digital department — which has been out front for the remnants of the campaign answering questions about Project ORCA — is claiming no involvement with the project, nor any knowledge of who built the project or how much it cost.

Former Romney campaign digital director Zac Moffatt previously pushed back against accusations from the campaign’s critics that the campaign failed to properly use social media or capture accurate voter information.

When contacted for further comment on Project ORCA, Moffatt originally said he did not wish to add anything to what The Daily Caller previously reported on the project.

Lenny Alcivar, former Romney campaign online rapid response director, told The Daily Caller in an interview that Project ORCA was not part of the campaign’s get out the vote effort, contradicting previous reports, including the interview in The Huffington Post.

“ORCA was not ever designed to put us over the top against a president who had 6 years to coordinate his turnout system,” said Alcivar. “The get out the vote tool was put in place months and weeks before.”

When asked about the origin of the idea that Project ORCA was part of the campaign’s get out the vote arsenal, Alcivar told The Daily Caller he did not know, saying that it was probably from the “uninformed chattering classes,” referring to the campaign’s critics in the blogosphere.

“The frustration of Republicans and conservatives after a tough loss is understandable,” he said.

However, Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul told The Huffington Post at the beginning of November that Project ORCA would “give us an enormous advantage on Election Day.”

“By knowing the current results of a state,” Saul said then, “we can continue to adjust and micro target our get-out-the-vote efforts to ensure a Romney victory.”

Alcivar told The Daily Caller he did not know which firm designed the technology, or how much the service cost.

A source told The Daily Caller that the project’s combination of paper and digital components resembled some of the previous work of Justin Hart, the campaign’s former director for special digital projects.

Hart, however, told The Daily Caller that he had “zero” involvement with Project ORCA. Hart was also a member of the digital department and reported to Moffatt.

Ars Technica reported on November 9 that ORCA was built by Microsoft and an unnamed application consulting firm. FEC filings show that the Romney campaign paid over $40 million to technology vendors.

CEO Ed Hastings of campaign vendor OHO Interactive also denied involvement with Project ORCA, stating instead that it had worked on various other projects throughout the campaign. Moffatt denied OHO’s involvement with ORCA as well, though he did say the company was contracted by Targeted Victory.

Moffatt previously told The Daily Caller that his firm Targeted Victory — which the Romney campaign paid a total $17,187,005 as of October 31 — had nothing to do with ORCA. He also said that consulting firm FLS Connect, which the Romney campaign paid $16,524,447, was not involved either.

Hart previously worked at ElectionMall, a political technology company that partners with Microsoft on its web-based campaign management system Campaign Cloud. ElectionMall denied any involvement with the campaign. Hart denied their involvement as well.

Mindshift Technologies, a Best Buy subsidiary, received $811, 214 from the Romney campaign for “network service & support”, according to FEC filings.

A Mindshift spokesperson declined The Daily Caller’s request for comment, and referred The Daily Caller to the Romney campaign.

Have a Project ORCA-related tip? Please email Josh at josh@dailycaller.com.

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