Columbia’s Donehue Direct becomes Push Digital

Wesley Donehue’s political tech outfit, which has helped campaigns across the country, is making a change, it announced today:

Top SC political internet firm rebrands as Push Digital
Columbia, SC – January 24, 2013 – Wesley Donehue, founder and CEO of leading political tech firm Donehue Direct, announced today the rebranding of his firm to Push Digital.
The new Push Digital will continue its nationally recognized work in website and application development, mobile marketing, online advertising and targeting, fundraising, brand management, and social media. Push is also reemphasizing its commitment to data collection, management and analytics, something that Donehue has working toward for several years.
“Four years ago when I was asked what the next big tech trend was, I said ‘data,’ and a lot of people rolled their eyes,” Donehue said. “Too many people think data is boring and it isn’t sexy, but we all saw firsthand the results of a data-driven campaign this year in the presidential race. Our goal, quite simply, is to be second to none when it comes to data, and that’s something that will mean big dividends to our clients in terms of their ability to target their message and raise cash.”
Push is one of the few political Internet firms that has run campaigns from top to bottom. Its team has been involved from the state legislative level all the way up to the presidential, as well as numerous marketing campaigns for state parties, issue groups and nonprofit organizations. The team has had broad experience running the political, finance, and communications operations.
Push Senior Vice President Joel Sawyer noted that too often, those branches of the campaigns are “siloed” from one another, and not integrated with regard to technology.
“Part of our new mission with Push is to give clients the tools they need to integrate tech into all aspects of a campaign, and more importantly, making sure all the data integrates,” Sawyer said. “We live in a world where the internet is completely pervasive in our lives, yet too many campaigns out there are run on a model from two decades ago.”
In addition to its political business, Push will continue its work with non-profits and issue advocacy groups. Push will maintain its office presence in both Columbia, South Carolina and San Francisco, California.
Learn more at
Follow us on twitter: @pushdigitalinc

“Politics is always going to be our bread and butter,” Joel Sawyer told me this afternoon. But the kind of increasingly sophisticated data mining that the firm does can “apply to any persuasive endeavor.”

In the past, he said, many campaigns have had volunteers who are willing to wave a sign on a street corner on the one hand, and people who give $10 or $15 on the other — often missing that a sign-waver could well be a donor, and vice versa. What Push Digital will do is pull all of a campaign’s data together and make it work in ways it hasn’t in the past.

Y’all know Joel. He was for awhile Mark Sanford’s press secretary, and was the guy the gov left to hold the bag when he ran off the Argentina. Joel resigned shortly after that, although I don’t ever recall him saying that there was a cause-and-effect relationship between the events.

Wesley y’all will know from all those communications for the Senate Republicans, and from Pub Politics, which just kicked off its new season last night. (Joel fills in for Wesley occasionally, as their business often requires travel.)

Check out Pinterest for a look at the newly-renamed firm’s portfolio.

Good luck with the new identity, guys.


One of the newly-renamed firm’s many national clients.

45 thoughts on “Columbia’s Donehue Direct becomes Push Digital

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I don’t know. I expect you’re asking because you see they helped both Todd Akin and Scott Brown. They also handled Michele Bachmann, which is probably why I continue to get emails from her.

      But it was also Wesley’s outfit that placed the John Courson ad that ran here on the blog back in the fall — although they did that for the Senate GOP caucus, not actually for the campaign.

      I just don’t know. I’ll ask them when next I chat with them. I wouldn’t be surprised if THEY don’t know.

      You know how, the last few years I was at the paper, I would publish — here on the blog and in columns — our “won-loss” record? I started doing that just because I was tired of the “The State’s endorsement is the kiss of death” meme. I knew it was far from true, but I didn’t really know what our record was — I’d never had the need to know or keep such records — until I just decided to spend an afternoon in our musty archives, poring through endorsements from year after year, to find out.

      As you may recall, close to 75 percent of people we endorsed in the years I was on the editorial board won.

      I also, while I was at it, figured out how many Democrats and Republicans we had endorsed in general elections during that period. I did that in order to have facts to answer the people of both parties who were totally convinced that we ALWAYS endorsed the other side. Which I also knew was very far from true, but couldn’t quantify.

      Turned out about 50-50 over time (with a very slight edge for Democrats toward the end), which was totally unintentional. Some years we endorsed mostly Democrats, some years mostly Republicans. But over time, it averaged out pretty evenly, without trying.

        1. Doug Ross

          Yes, you may have endorsed 75% of the winners but that doesn’t mean there was a cause-and-effect. Endorsements from The State might swing a very small percentage of voters. It would be more interesting to see The State’s record in endorsing non-incumbents since the incumbent has a built in advantage.

          Donehue’s winning percentage is far more relevant because they are being paid to win elections. Backing Bachmann was probably just a way to pay bills. There was no hope of her ever winning.

          More appropriate names for the company might be “Pimp Digital”, “Prod Digital”, or “Prevaricate Digital”

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I don’t think that’s fair, Doug. These guys are earning an honest living, doing something that’s a key part of our democracy — helping candidates get their message out.

            To the top of your comment — I would never claim that there was a cause-and-effect relationship with endorsements. I don’t believe it, so I wouldn’t say it. What I do know is that candidates took the endorsements very seriously. The only candidates who said our endorsement didn’t matter were people who failed to get it. But that doesn’t mean they thought it made all the difference, or even a large part of the difference, in whether they won or lost. They’d be wrong to think that.

            And yes, it’s more relevant to ask it with campaign consultants, since they’re paid to help candidates win.

    2. Wesley Donehue

      Doug – that is very difficult to answer. We:

      1. Serve as general consultants on a lot of SC races.
      2. Serve as campaign strategists for the SC Senate GOP Caucus.
      3. Serve as Internet consultants for a lot of national races.
      4. Build websites and apps for a lot of national races.

      In the Scott Brown example above we did not do #3, but we did do #4. We didn’t run his daily work and never even talked to his campaign manager, so I dont count that in our tally.

      However, we ran the day-to-day Internet campaign for new Congressman Tom Cotton in Arkansas and second term Congressman Dan Benishek in Michigan. We both of them.

      We also ran a ton of SC state legislative races.

      So, its real hard figure out a tally. Maybe I could if we tallied by one of those 4 categories.

      I hope that makes sense.

  1. Mark Stewart

    Those incandescent light bulbs, made in SC or otherwise, are going the way of the dodo. Good time to refresh one’s image.

    I like the new logo, even though the logo looks like the feed icon – sort of the opposite of what they’re doing.

    1. Steven Davis II

      No different than lawyers, they’ll say whatever the person forking over money tells them to say.

  2. Mark Stewart

    I didn’t say it above, but maybe I should have. These guys ought to be commended regardless of who their clients are; they are building a company with national presence – from Columbia. I don’t know them at all, and personally have asked myself “how could they represent ___?”, but really they are making a mark and that is worth stopping to take note of.

    Maybe they are continuing the process of creating an industry cluster. Columbia could use more Seibels Bruces – technical innovators that spawned the huge insurance industry IT cluster that Columbia now enjoys. We may not always like SC’s particular brand of sharp politics, but political operatives will always exist so why not cheer their ascent to the national arena?

    1. Kevin Dietrich

      I don’t know how much of an actual insurance technology cluster Columbia has. We do a lot of the grunt work here, but we’re not home to many corporate headquarters of innovative insurance technology firms. Seibels Bruce all but went bankrupt in the early 2000s, saw its stock price lose 99 percent of its value in a decade and went from have something like 2,000 employees to a couple hundred; PMSC got itself into trouble with the SEC and later was sold so that it became a branch operation of a California company; and more recently Continental American Insurance was acquired by Aflac of Columbus, Ga.

      Our major locally based insurance player is BlueCross and Blue Shield of South Carolina, which is an extremely large and growing company. However, it has an almost monopolistic share of the South Carolina health care market, meaning that it’s not likely that locally grown competitors stand much chance of emerging.

      And any insurance business that played as fast and loose with the facts as Donahue Direct does in promoting its clients – and I understand that is how that particular game is played – would be under investigation by any number of regulatory authorities.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    I do not think we need candidates to get their message out. It is one-sided spin, and is most likely to snow the barely informed. The rest of us have plenty of quality avenues, like this blog, to find out about the candidates in a more objective way.

  4. Doug Ross


    Do you feel the same way about companies that do marketing for cigarrette companies? Just doing their jobs…

    Far too much of the political consulting world is about sending out false messages attacking the opponent. It hasn’t helped the process of electing the best candidates.

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    Big difference, Doug. There’s a positive point to democracy, even when I disagree with those who are participating in it.

    There’s no upside to cigarettes.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, I think that’s right. I remember several months ago Wesley telling me they had opened an office somewhere out West. San Francisco rings a bell. A streetcar bell, I suppose…

  6. Doug Ross


    It’s only a “big difference” if you live in a world where you think political campaigns are about truth, justice, and the American way. The reality is they are about smears, half truths, phony campaign promises.. well, I guess that is the American Way. Mr. Smith ain’t going to Washington any more.

    It’s all about money, Brad. Lobbyist money, campaign donations, war chests, PACs… there’s a huge pot of tax dollars at stake.

  7. Doug Ross


    It’s only a “big difference” if you live in a world where you think political campaigns are about truth, justice, and the American way. The reality is they are about smears, half truths, phony campaign promises.. well, I guess that is the American Way. Mr. Smith ain’t going to Washington any more.

    It’s all about money, Brad. Lobbyist money, campaign donations, war chests, PACs… there’s a huge pot of tax dollars at stake.

    From the looks of their staff page, they seem to be struggling in the diversity department. But we wouldn’t expect otherwise, would we?

  8. Kathryn Fenner

    Political spin is not the same thing as “democracy,” Brad. I’m all for democracy and a well-informed populace. Political spin doctors operate in opposition to a well-informed electorate.

  9. Brad Warthen Post author

    Well, I’ll tell you one thing… my post-newspaper career, starting with my long unemployment, has reinforced something I already knew.

    I always knew that not everyone was well paid to be high-minded and idealistic and write exactly what they think without any regard to financial repercussions. I knew I was fortunate in that regard.

    What I have experienced since then has only reinforced my respect for people trying to make a living the best they can, using the skills they have.

    And yeah, working for clients and helping them with the message they want to get across has made me even more understanding. I haven’t had to advocate anything that I was against, so there’s been no conflict there. But it IS very different figuring out how to shape someone else’s message, other than my own. And there’s some overlap there with what political consultants do.

    In fact, if you’ll recall, we even did a little work for a campaign last year — Daniel Coble’s.

    Personally, I would have trouble working as a Republican consultant these days, because the kinds of Republicans I like are getting out of it, and Tea Party types have been taking their places. But Wesley and Joel aren’t me. They’re more in sync with where their clients are coming from, so I doubt it’s a big strain for them.

  10. Mark Stewart

    Sometimes it is more about what is not said than what is exclaimed. The real world is like that.

    For instance, today The State had an article about the Chicago developer’s plan to repaint the ex-SCANA headquarters for its transformation to student housing. They quoted an architect who had been involved with the design circa 1980, who said basically it was a travesty to molest the building. But nobody was quoted as saying the building is – today – banal, obsolescent, a blight on the streetscape and the skyline and, really, just a pedestrian example of one of the low points of American architecture. It’s dreck and inefficient. That’s the truth. But nobody wants to offend, so we just close our eyes to the blight that is.

    Wesley Donehue’s promotional video on his website is just like that. The video presents a vision of an energetic, youthful, competent and dynamic New South ready to shape messages across this country. That’s great. Good for them, I say. But look closer at the clip, frame by frame. Despite all of the imagery of the Capitol of South Carolina, one will not see even a flash of the Confederate Flag. Yes, we see a zoom-in of the tested yet strong soldier of the Confederate monument, but nothing more than the very top of the golden orb surmounting the flagpole behind. No matter the angle of the video shot, no trace of the flag is revealed. That is careful attention to detail. That is crafting a message; and plain expression that great care was expended to make sure that only what message was desired was conveyed. That’s the difference between a message one is paid to shill, and the message one wants to project. Life’s like that. So I am glad to see that Push Digital has chosen to present an image that is slightly subversive to the plain reality of what flies just outside their window. I hope that the polish and the desire for a better south presented in the video finds expression – as much as possible – in their consulting work for the pols who on their own would never catch the warping of reality at play.

  11. Kathryn Fenner

    I, too, have had to make a living without regard to my high ideals. I think the political spinmeisters could use their powers for good, though, if they weren’t already convinced they were. Plenty of worthier causes could use some message-pushing. Every message does not deserve to be heard.

  12. Doug Ross

    And let’s not forget that their primary business is targeting messages to likely donors not about disseminating the truth. Their primary mission as can be seen on their website is “Raise Cash”.
    Under Services, their primary functions appear to be “Online Fundraising” and “Fundraiser Ticketing”.
    It’s more about marketing than it is about patriotism. If you like spam mail in your inbox, junk mail your mailbox, and tons of 30 second sound bite ads on your radio and TV, that’s what they do.

  13. Kathryn Fenner

    All of the major local architects testified at the D/DRC meeting, and none liked the proposed exterior changes. The building is not a blight! It is a prime example of a style of architecture you may not like, much as I am no fan of Queen Anne Victorians. As recently as the 1970s, the Horseshoe was deemed a blight, obsolescent and slated for demolition. Tastes change, and the style of thirty years ago may seem dated, but in another twenty or forty, will seem cool again.

  14. Mark Stewart


    The building is one that I do not like for more than aesthetic reasons.

    I would rather see the property torn down; the Marriott included. But it’s big. So it needs to be repurposed. Let the developer try this.

    I buy more the idea that paint won’t hold up over time. Otherwise, I like the idea of emphasizing the horizontal and accenting the strength of the columns. I’m not so sure about the squares, but hey why not?

    It you want to hear a defense of this style of architecture, ask me about the Richland County Courthouse or (sort of) the RC Public Library. But I have said for years before SCANA left that that bldg is a POS that has no future as anything other than as an eyesore. It’s too bad “all the major local architects” like it – which I suspect most don’t personally; but I understand that architects, like anyone, want to protect their legacies and don’t ever like to see structures tarted up. But sometimes that’s the best option. Like it is here.

    How about everyone who attended the ad hoc design commission meeting today instead devote energy to getting Marriott to take a look at the Bull Street admin building? One building’s demise could be another’s rebirth…

  15. Kathryn Fenner

    Nobody, including me, had any issues with the interior, just the reskinning and some vents. I am glad it is being repurposed.

    It is a good example of that style of architecture. It is not my favorite style, unlike the library. The Courthouse, along with Swearingen, is cool from the outside, but less well-designed inside. The Family Court Annex is appallingly well hidden, and it is difficult to find a lot of important places in the main building. Ditto Gambrell. My eyes were opened when I got to Chicago and went in buildings that were not just cool on the outside, but functional and beautiful inside.

  16. Kathryn Fenner

    And for what it’s worth, I advocated for a colorful building to be built in Five Points, where it would be more appropriate. I could even go for colorful accents a la the Neue Staatsgallerie in Stuttgart.

  17. Mark Stewart

    Mr. Monteith has every right to defend his professional legacy as one of the architects of the Palmetto Center. But someone should have asked him to take off his Commissioner hat. Instead Columbia got yet another display of self-dealing.

    This isn’t an issue about paint color, or even about architecture, this is an issue (yet another) of a City’s hidebound adherence to the past without descrimination and preference – or at least acceptance of – petty corruption and self-dealing. Some things, and practices, of every era are worth saving and some are not.

    Personally, I don’t think that turning the City’s tallest office building into a college dorm is going to work out well for Main Street, and the city as a whole, in the long run. However, something has to be done with the whale carcass. The essence of good design, and of good policy, is that which can stand the test of time. Most things don’t. So we renovate. And push on. Deference, to people as well as things, is a positive trait; but only when combined with an unjaundiced eye.

    1. Phillip

      Mark, I too have serious concerns about the effect of turning that building into a college dorm. Relative to the total of other full-time residents in the condos and apartments on that stretch of Main, the population is going to suddenly and dramatically skew much younger. On the other hand, it will be very good to have more people on the street in the evening hours overall there, which could in turn spark more people (young professionals) to want to live there. I’m also hoping that the emerging feel of the area (the Museum of Art and all its many offerings, the new Nickelodeon, First Thursdays on Main, Tapp’s, etc.) will have more of an effect on the residents of the new dorm than those residents of the new dorm will have on that corridor itself. Perhaps the location of the dorm in this urban-cultural-corridor will itself factor heavily into what kind of student chooses to live there, i.e., somebody who’s looking for a different kind of college experience than just puking and passing out in Five Points.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        I think a different kind of student will locate there. It is a different setting from the resort complexes and the stadium condos. It is also a lot harder to have a monster party in that setting, as opposed to a free-standing house. Students who work or intern in law firms or the State House, say…..

  18. Kathryn Fenner

    It wasn’t just Lesesne. It was Doug Quackenbush, Dale Marshall, the guy who designed it, who wasn’t Lesesne, and others.

  19. Mark Stewart

    I raised the situation with the Palmetto Center as a sort of counter-point to making a positive comment about a company’s strides toward national prominence in its field. So at first it fit in this thread.

    But the more I think about it, the more I realize Columbia is (once again) giving itself short shift over this issue. The Palmetto Center site is, or at least should be, of importance to a broad swath of people in Columbia and across the Midlands. This issue of adaptive reuse deserves to have its own civic conversation. I realized, as I commented above about the proposed painting of 1426 Main Street that I was also missing the point. This isn’t just a story about some architects at odds with another architect’s vision (or at least the client’s vision). This is really about the very future of downtown as a commercial core. It is easy to miss the macro picture sometimes.

    The Palmetto Center was born out of a previous generation’s fear that downtown was losing its luster as the center of commerce in the region. This was with good reason – then as it is now. For 15 years suburban office parks had been bleeding off businesses – those that weren’t relocated to Atlanta or Charlotte. The Palmetto Center was an attempt at halting this trend. It was remarkable at the time to create a mixed use development – a corporate HQ building as well as a modern business hotel and meeting facility on one site.

    The problem was that it was simply poorly designed. Neither the hotel nor the office building really met the needs of their respective users. Not surprisingly both languished.

    Fast forward 30 years. The hotel, unknown to most, was foreclosed on. Around the same time the now empty office tower owners agreed to sell to a for-profit college dorm operator – about as close to a distress sale as one can get. Interestingly, what dragged each other down was the other. While the facts are a bit arcane, the basic situation is that neither the hotel nor the office tower can be rebuilt as someone today would want – because of the physical and legal complexities related to the presence of the other. So both spiral downward.

    Now, if the office building is converted to dorms, regardless of whether the building is repainted, the hotel is bound to soon loose its Marriott flag. It’s inevitable. And yet this certainty seems to not be part of the public discussion. In the same way, the office building had the possibility that someone might have come along and invested in a physical transformation that may have brought the property back to some level of competitiveness (it remains alarming to see people say the building is an example of “good” architecture when it’s floor plate design, etc. makes it functionally worthless for modern office use). But this is basically impossible because the hotel wraps around three sides of the tower.

    So what we have here is a situation where the city of Columbia has acquiesced to the repurposing of the office tower without seemingly understanding the corrosive effect this will have on the adjacent hotel. To further compound this problem, the city has agreed to hand over the top deck of its adjacent parking garage to create a outdoor amenity package for the college dorm; including a swimming pool, sand volleyball court, hot tub, etc. It’s bad enough that this will be visible from half of the hotel’s rooms, but the students will also have to pass through the hotel to get back and forth from the garage and pool to the dorm building. Surely no one would view these as compatible uses?

    Something needs to be done with the Palmetto Center. But that something is not what has been proposed. What needs to happen is to get these two separate properties – the hotel and office tower – back into common ownership. That is the only way to rebuild both in a way that will strengthen the City of Columbia and its urban core.

    A vibrant, urban environment needs all uses – but most of all it needs jobs. Without the desire of businesses to congregate, neither will residents.

    I hope that the city, its leaders and its civic-minded residents will take another look at the whole idea of a dorm back-filling the largest office building in the heart of Main Street. Especially given what will inevitably follow. This is not an easy fix. There is not one. But the easy way out (what is now proposed) is the worst possible outcome; civically speaking.

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