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2019 Playbook

Rollout Strategy

Morganne Howell


Structural rollout:

Choose an entity model.

Revenue rollout:

What donors and PACs might be willing to endorse or financially support the project?

What state and federal campaigns will The Art of Oppo ask to support the concept?

What accelerators might be interested in supporting the project? How do they support? What do they ask in return?

Research rollout:

What geography and campaigns will The Art of Oppo target first in 2019?

State of the Oppo Industry

Morganne Howell

Political opposition research, once a mostly unmentioned dark art, has turned into a garish, multimillion-dollar enterprise complete with logos, marketing strategies and indiscriminate, real-time streaming of the work product onto social media.

Changes in the way voters consume information, a numbness to the negative politicking that once so offended them and the emergence of new research and data distribution technologies are driving once-shadowy operatives into the sunlight.
— Evan Halper, LA Times, May 27, 2015

Survey of Opposition Research Firms


  1. Nesbitt Research

    • San Francisco; Washington, D.C.

    • Team size: 5-6

    • “Agile approach to opposition research delivery.”

  2. Stanford Caskey

    • New York

    • Team size: 1-3

    • “From traditional opposition research to time-sensitive rapid response, Grand Central’s research programs are rooted in thoroughness and focused on providing clients with valuable information that will enable them to succeed.”

  3. VR Research

    • Oakland; Washington, D.C.

    • Team size: 3-5

    • “Because we build strategic knowledge using public records, our findings are verifiable and defensible.  Because we coordinate each project we take according to our work-flow process, our work is uniform and our findings easily implemented. Here's how it works.”

  4. Jones Mandel

    • Seattle, WA; Alexandria, VA

    • Team size: 10

    • “But Jones Mandel is recognized as “best in class” because we offer our clients advice and strategic counsel, not just raw data. We know our clients don’t have the time to connect all the dots themselves, so we pair our research products with ongoing, research-based strategic counsel.”

  5. Ohlsen Research

    • Portland, OR

    • Team size: 1-4

    • “Ohlsen Consulting is a full-service public affairs firm with expertise in political consulting, government relations, communications, opposition research, and competitive and strategic intelligence. In an environment that pivots in the time it takes to type 140 characters, we excel at locating and communicating the key piece of information that alters the conversation.”

  6. WayForward Research

    • Portsmouth, NH; Chicago, IL

    • Team size: 1-3

    • “Every WayForward Research project starts with a one-on-one consultation where we work with you to identify your unique goals. From there, we will develop a clear game-plan to meet your goals within your budget and your time-frame; all while utilizing the most up-to-date and cutting edge research methodologies. When we deliver a timely, useful and straightforward product, our real work begins where many other firms' work ends, as we will supplement that work with long-term strategic advice and follow-up research.”

  7. Shield

    • South Bend, IN

    • Team size: 2-4

    • “Shield Political Research provides opposition research to state, local and federal campaigns; non-profits operating in the public sphere; and certain corporate clients.”

  8. Grindstone Research

    • Nashville, Tennessee; Lexington, Kentucky

    • Team size: 3-5

    • “At Grindstone, we do not simply complete the research books and consider our job done. We pride ourselves on working closely with staff and consultants throughout every project for every client.”

  9. M Street Solutions

    • Washington, D.C.

    • Team size: 1-3

    • “We discern the current trends. We uncover the important information. We hear the latest buzz. We collate it all in an accurate and cohesive manner to provide you with the most useful avenues for your success.”

  10. American Bridge PAC

    • Washington, D.C.

    • Team size unknown

    • American Bridge 21st Century is a progressive research and communications organization committed to holding Republicans accountable for their words and actions and helping you ascertain when Republican candidates are pretending to be something they’re not.

  11. Citizen Strong

    1. National

    2. Team size: 3-4 partners, ~16,000 volunteers

    3. “Since February 2018, we’ve been busy scouring the records of elected officials  all over America. Led by alumni of the Obama 08 campaign’s research team and harnessing the energy of over 20,000 volunteers, we’re tipping the balance in nearly 30 Congressional races and over 70 legislative races in key states.”

Republican Firms

  1. America Rising

    • Arlington, Virginia

    • Team size: ~20

    • “America Rising PAC was founded in Spring 2013 for the sole purpose of exposing the truth about Democrats through video tracking, research, and strategic communications. We have uncovered countless instances of Democratic hypocrisy and taken action to hold them accountable. … We are constantly adding new politicians, candidates, and party officials to our tracking list as the ‘the major clearinghouse for opposition research within the GOP.’”

  2. Definers Public Affairs

    • Washington, D.C.

    • Team size: 20

    • “Definers provides clients with comprehensive competitive intelligence, including support on relevant issues, competitors, and agitators. Packaged in easily digestible, media-friendly formats, Definers searches the public record, including news reports, social media, and legal records, for high-impact information that can inform and influence media narratives or your public relations campaigns.”

  3. Intellz

    • Dallas, Texas

    • Team size: 3-5

    • “We focus our research lens on factors that move the electorate: illegal or unethical activity, hypocrisy, placing self-benefit ahead of public service, poor stewardship of taxpayer resources, and actions and attitudes which create a clear divide with the voting public.”

Unaffiliated Firms

  1. Fusion GPS

    • Team size/location unknown

    • “We offer a cross-disciplinary approach with expertise in media, politics, regulation, national security, and global markets.”

  2. Gragert Research

    • Chicago, IL

    • Team size: 3-4

    • “Gragert Research’s proven success and high level of performance stems from decades of combined experience. Our team approach to research enables us to undertake large-scale projects and to respond quickly to our clients needs. In addition to our rapid-response services, we are known for providing in-depth analysis and sophisticated on-the-ground research.”

Innovation in the field

  1. Nesbitt Research: Tech innovation in delivery of product and internal systems

    • “Escape static research docs with rich content. Accelerate communications with live data, videos, audio, maps, social media feeds and near real-time intelligence.”

    • “Email is dangerous. Simple and secure online project admin.”

    • About Allen Nesbitt: “I am fanatical about innovation in the service of client success. At Nesbitt Research, I transformed political research by integrating cloud based collaboration, communication and workflow ideas adapted from social web enterprises.”

  2. Ohlsen Research: Applied dark web research to methodology

    • The Deep Web & The Dark Web: Only 4% of the internet is accessible through search engines, the so-called ‘surface web.’ The other 96% consists of the deep web, or what can't be found through a normal search engine. The dark web, a small subset of the deep web, can only be accessed using special browsers (TOR being the dominant one). The firm uses specialized search engines and the TOR Browser to search the deep and dark web to find content that has not been crawled by the major search engines or that the target is seeking to hide.”

  3. Citizen Strong: Structural innovation

    • 501(c)4 “dark money” group run with volunteers

    • “This is the product of John Burton, an Obama acolyte and political activist who, harnessing the crowdsourcing process (the ‘Wiki effect’), has signed up an army of amateur volunteers to examine the records of dozens of vulnerable GOP candidates with the intention of publicizing these findings in a string of October surprises. … Anticipating the 2018 elections, he has organized 16,000 volunteers who have been searching the net for ‘damaging material’ on GOP candidates.” [, 10/11/2018]

    • Burton doesn’t identify his benefactors or the three operatives he’s hired to help run the group.