Push Digital Acquires Campaign Solutions to Form a Competitor to the Right’s Mega Firms
The Republican firm that boasts it was the first to a process a campaign contribution online has been acquired by South Carolina-based Push Digital.
The deal will put R. Rebecca “Becki” Donatelli’s Campaign Solutions, which has evolved to offer strategy and digital services in additional to fundraising since she founded it in 1998, and CDI Ads together with Push and its advocacy shop Laurens Group under an umbrella corporation (Push Digital Group). However, the deal doesn’t include Donatelli’s Right Country Lists (RCL).
Push Digital’s Wesley Donehue, who characterized the deal as a “merger” in practice because the companies will continue to operate as independent “brands,” said that a separate deal for RCL could happen in the future. Still, he noted that he did acquire Donatelli’s “e-donation” technology as part of the deal.
In the meantime, the new company can match some of the industry’s largest players in terms of manpower and client roster having worked with many top-tier GOP Senate campaigns, governor’s races and presidentials over the last few cycles.
“I’m competing against a juggernaut by becoming a juggernaut,” Donehue said of positioning his new firm against major competitors like Targeted Victory, Majority Strategies and Axiom Strategies.
“Very few companies in this space have 100 people or more. We’re gonna have over 100 people now. We are a juggernaut. And I’m not going to try to be a jack of all trades. I’m gonna be the best digital Republican firm in the country.”
Donehue added that the impetus for the move wasn’t just to better compete with the large firms that are dominating the right side of the industry. It’s also to help his side better compete with Democrats on small-dollar fundraising online.
“[Herschel] Walker was out raised by $200 million. If you look at [Mehmet] Oz and [John] Fetterman, [and] Oz takes out his personal loans — he’s outspent like 3:1. [Blake] Masters was outspent 5:1,” Donehue said. “We have a low-dollar donation problem. We can’t win elections until we at least get to parity with Democrats. And we’re not going to ever get to parity in spending unless we fix [our] low-dollar donation problem. It’s the biggest single problem facing the Republican Party.”
He added: “I’m going to use Campaign Solutions as a tool and pour money into it to start innovating and fix this problem so that we can actually start winning some elections.”
The deal stems from years of close collaboration between Push and Donatelli’s Campaign Solutions, including on high-profile Senate races such as Walker’s unsuccessful challenge this cycle to Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s competitive reelect in 2020.
“It was nothing official. Nothing on paper. No money going here or there,” Donehue said of their collaboration. “It was simply when we went and pitched political campaigns, we also pitched Campaign Solutions.
“We went in and said, ‘We are the best at spending your money online. We’re not the best at raising it online. Here’s the company that we like to partner up with.’ And all we did was put them in the room with people.”
The existing relationship made the acquisition a natural fit. Moreover, Donehue noted, in digital, buying another firm is the easiest way to grow because it’s such a labor intensive part of the industry.
“You can write, produce, place a TV ad with like 10 times less people,” he said. “Digital is very, very, very infrastructure intensive. You’ve got to have designers, developers, videographers, accounts people, strategists.”
Taking a firm like Push to the next level in terms of revenue would require adding something like 40 people, he estimated. “Either you have to spend years building out that many people, or you have to go and acquire an entity that’s already built.”
About seven months ago, Push Managing Partner Phil Vangelakos suggested that Donehue approach Donatelli about a deal. A short phone call started the process that resulted in the deal being finalized at the end of November. Donehue announced the acquisition on Twitter on Dec. 8.
“I’m a welfare kid that grew up in Section 8 housing,” he said. “I didn’t come up around business. So I’ve learned how to be an entrepreneur just by doing it, by screwing up. And I had never gone through or been around this kind of a business deal before.
“You’ve got financial due diligence, you’ve got operational due diligence and then you’ve got legal due diligence. Really diving into those three specific lanes, finding advisors, attorneys and accountants to help with it — looking at 20 years of accounting documents — it’s quite overwhelming. It was the most in-depth, crazy and intense experience I’ve had as an entrepreneur.”
While Donatelli will remain at the new company for seven months, her title isn’t officially decided yet. Donehue will take on the role of CEO of the new venture. He’s now in the process of filing five VP roles and planning for a new Atlanta office to open in 2023.
Donehue said the deal was facilitated with the backing of an investor. “It’s a part-cash deal, part owner-financed and part bank financed,” he said, declining to state the purchase price.
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