Bloomberg firm Hawkfish falsely told potential hires it would be the 'primary' tech platform for the DNC

Key Points
  • Mike Bloomberg's technology company Hawkfish falsely claimed to recruits that the Democratic National Committee is one of its clients.
  • Bloomberg founded Hawkfish in spring 2019 with the goal of helping Democrats combat the digital operations formed by the GOP and President Trump's campaign.
  • Hawkfish's recruiting pitch changed days after the DNC notified the firm that its claim was "incorrect and misleading."
US presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg opens a local campaign field office in Philadelphia, PA, on December 21, 2019.
Bastiaan Slabbers | NurPhoto | Getty Images

During the week Mike Bloomberg announced his run for president in November, a technology company he founded was reaching out to potential recruits through an outside firm, saying it would be the "primary platform" for the Democratic National Committee.

But the claim wasn't true.

The firm, Hawkfish LLC, is the main digital agency and technology service for the former New York mayor's campaign for president, as CNBC first reported. Yet it has no current or planned role with the DNC in the 2020 election cycle, according to a Bloomberg aide and a DNC official.

Bloomberg develops a secret data weapon called 'Hawkfish'

On Nov. 27, three days after Bloomberg officially launched his bid for the White House, the DNC told Hawkfish that the pitches were misleading, according to the DNC official, spokesman Daniel Wessel.

"We had previously alerted Hawkfish that the recruiting emails were incorrect and misleading," Wessel told CNBC. Hawkfish then conceded to the DNC that the script sent to potential recruits wasn't accurate, according to Wessel. It was corrected starting Dec. 2, said Michael Frazier, a Bloomberg campaign spokesman.

Bloomberg, who has a net worth of just over $54 billion, incorporated Hawkfish in spring 2019, with the goal of helping Democrats overpower the formidable data operation assembled by the Republican National Committee and President Donald Trump's campaign. Yet much about the company wasn't known until CNBC reported on its existence and efforts last week.

The Bloomberg campaign said that the company Hawkfish hired to recruit talent, Andiamo Partners, mistakenly believed the data startup also had a contract with the DNC. Andiamo's CEO, Patrick McAdams, did not respond to a request for comment.

Several potential hires received notices through LinkedIn in which they were informed that Hawkfish was working for both the Bloomberg campaign and the DNC. It wasn't immediately clear how many recruiting targets received the erroneous pitch.

"The recruiting company mistook support for Democratic causes as Hawkfish working under contract with the DNC, which isn't the case," said Frazier, the Bloomberg aide.

Hawkfish had done work for Democratic groups in state races within Virginia and Kentucky earlier this year. The Bloomberg campaign previously declined to specify which campaigns the firm worked on in those states. In November, Democrats won control of the Virginia statehouse for the first time in over two decades, while Democrat Andy Beshear narrowly defeated GOP Gov. Matt Bevin.

CNBC first learned of Hawkfish's recruiting efforts after receiving a copy of a LinkedIn message from a person who had experience working with data analytics for President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's campaigns for president.

This person, who declined to be named in this story due to worries about his career being affected, pushed back on the recruiter.

"I told them that they were tarnishing their brand among potential recruits by misrepresenting their relationship with the DNC," this person said. This person did not end up moving forward with a job interview.

The Andiamo Partners representative who sent out these messages was taken off the account. Hawkfish, which is largely operating out of the Bloomberg campaign headquarters in New York, is still using the firm to help with recruitment. Hawkfish's leadership ranks include longtime Facebook Chief Marketing Officer Gary Briggs and Jeff Glueck, the former CEO of location tracking firm Foursquare.

The discovery of Hawkfish's issues with a third-party recruiting vendor comes after Bloomberg's campaign ended its relationship with an outside firm that used prison labor to make calls on behalf of the candidate.

Bloomberg is in fifth place in the Democratic primary, behind former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, according to a Real Clear Politics average of national polls.

Bloomberg has spent more than $100 million on TV ads across the country, along with more than $20 million on digital spots on Facebook and Google.

Bloomberg develops a secret data weapon called 'Hawkfish'