Part One Here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10021489250 Many thanks to the many co-investigators that supplied many valuable links so I don’t have time to individually thank each of you. This went way over the time I budgeted, there was just so much material on Kaplan. This should get some attention. If not there will be a follow up around Wednesday or Thursday.
If someone could screenshot the various websites, especially those at Gravis Marketing and Kaplan. I expect some heavy scrubbing is on the way.
Gravis Marketing Exposed: Stage II the Evisceration of Douglas Kaplan.
This post has 3 parts;
The first is the summary of what is known. Everything in this part is based on fact or published statements, most of them by Douglas Kaplan. Every assertion is made with a footnote in parentheses () and detailed below so that it doesn’t distract from the initial reading. Many of these facts were dug up by others and I have tried to credit their contributions.
The second section details the facts and describes each attribution in context.
The third section deals with the problems that have been noted in the actual polling again each statement is backed up with attribution.
The fourth section, if needed will be what happens after these facts have been digested. I hope to get to it by Wednesday or Thursday.
Gravis Marketing makes it to the ‘Big Show’.
Part One The Summary of What is Known
This isn’t a story about an ambitious(2.1) small time(2.2) con artist/fax spammer(2.3), right wing confidant/Republican booster wannabe (2.4), with limited math skills(3.1), who with a limited educational background(2.5), no direct polling experience(2.6), a limited grasp of the political process (2.7), a startling pedestrian ability to communicate effectively about the political process he claims to be an expert in(2.8), who has become the most dominant polling source from many key swing states (3.2) despite some glaring mathematical deficiencies (3.3) and becomes the highest weighted pollster for Silver (3.3) and most frequently used by RCP (3.4) and also despite the fact that he has no effective business plan and states that he is deriving zero revenues(2.9), has an outrageously adolescent professional portfolio(2.10) and an embarrassing display of testimonials(2.11) with an apparent failed attempt to become a partisan political money launderer(2.12) all the while claiming to be non-partisan (and listed by Nate and RCP as such)(2.5).
No it isn’t a story about all of that. Yes all of that is objectively true and will be layed out in a systematic matter but that isn’t the big story here. The big story is about the lack of standards in the profession of political polling and how those who have gotten to the top of the polling evaluation mountain got punked bad and exposing the fact that they have no objective hold on the people who are supplying them their raw material.
Imagine for a minute that you are Scott Rasmussen. Now Scott was raised a Republican and like most people that age (including me) revolted at Nixon and became a Democrat. Scott and his father started ESPN (which is now owned by Disney) and when he sold his shares at the age of the age of 28 started amassing a Romney like fortune and is currently estimated to be worth $ 600 million. He didn’t major in statistics or political science but graduated from DePauw University and has an MBA from Wake Forrest. Scott works hard to provide the Republicans with a respectable although universally perceived biased polling vehicle where FOX and the Republicans can go to get numbers that support their position as best they can. Now imagine that you are the same Scott Rasmussen and one day you wake up and realize that your position as the go to guy(2.14) for the right has been replaced by Douglas Kaplan. You go on FOX almost nightly and Kaplan has a couple of interviews on an obscure Russian Govt radio program (2.15). So you get curious and you find the personal web page for Kaplan and this is what you are looking at;
Doug Kaplan was Born in Brooklyn, New York, I grew up as the middle child of seven siblings. Early on, I developed a love of project development. By the age of 14, I had read several books . It was at this time that I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Upon graduating from high school, I entered Valencia and Devry University, I quickly found work developing my first project for Discovery Marketing. I learned a lot with the company, as I was responsible for their first national campaign. The most important lesson I learned was the importance of pushing the envelope and not being afraid to take risks. My technique has continued to evolve to the present day.
I am currently a freelance professional, working from my private office in Orlando I enjoy meeting other professionals and following the latest trends. I enjoy attending conferences and symposiums, as well as adding more books to my reading list. Although I am highly sought after, I am always open to new projects. No job is too big or too small. Call me today at 407-242-1870.
Maybe he clicks around and finds out that Douglas Kaplan is the one that is sued by Disney, who now owns his beloved ESPN, for running a fax spamming con (2.3) and that Nate Silver gives this guy more weight than he does you (3.5)
Well if that little mental exercise didn’t make you smile then you might either be Scott Rasmussen or possibly Nate Silver.
Nate Silver is one of the most interesting guys that popped out of the 2008 elections. Unassuming and one of the ultimate sports fans he used his BA in Economics from the University of Chicago to quantify one of the loves of his life, baseball and developed Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm a statistically driven model that works to predict future professional success based on a players past statistics (for details go to Wikipedia).
Nate uses the same discipline and posts under a pseudonym and eventually on his own website. Very successful he licenses the site to NYT and becomes the ‘Better Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ for polls.
In 2008 there are two very exciting primary races each of which generates hundreds of state wide polls which are followed by a historic and equally exciting general election with another cascade of polls. All of which works to Silver’s strength. The more polling the more accurate his modeling is going to be.
Now in 2012 the Democrats have no primary and the Republicans have a dreary affair with a dragged out coronation. When the GE gets in full gear you have a media and Silver’s modeling system that demands more and more polling data. It is an unquestionable thirst. Silver’s model is based on two assumptions;
1) That published polls follow similar methodology even though they may have some measurable biases.
2) The bias of one side of the polls can be fairly balanced out with polls on the other side and with some simple weighting techniques.
This OP will show that when Nate let Gravis into ‘The Big Show’ he really dropped the ball. More than any other person in the game, Nate is the gatekeeper on who should be consider a minimum professional standard for a professional pollster and at least in regard to Gravis Marketing, a company with no real academic or professional standards, was allowed to slip in and undermine the whole process. Nate simply accepted the pollster based on the initial product being consistent with other product and never looked behind the curtain.
If one campaign or even individuals wanted to influence the national Electoral College models then all they would have to do is to publish acceptable looking polls and then as the race tightens flood the airways with numbers for the ever hungry media and blogosphere and presto states turn from light blue to purple and from purple to red. If you are having difficulty with fund raising (as has been reported about the Romney campaign) then presto the polls show a tighter race and you are not observing the race but helping one side become more competitive.
Part Two: The Evisceration of Douglas Kaplan.
Most of what is here is either the result of Douglas own words or court records reflecting his previous activity.
It shouldn’t have been necessary. After the first thread Gravis Marketing should have been laughed off of the internet. While most of the reactions at other sites were the same as DU there were a couple of responses that need responding to:
1) So What If Its A Stock Photo. The start of the previous thread had a stock photo of an experienced looking businessman and was followed by Kaplan’s own use of a goofy looking frat boy. The point wasn’t that he used a stock photo but that when it came to using his own photo he apparently doesn’t possess enough self awareness to realize that it is a very unprofessional presentation for a national pollster.
2) I don’t see a smoking gun. the smoking gun would be to match telephone records with the times published or to show time cards, or to let a reporter examine your records and observe a polling cycle. But all of that is really beside the point. Our purpose is not to bring in a verdict but to serve an indictment. It’s not for us to prove that everything Gravis Marketing is putting out is wrong, it’s to show that he should never have been allowed on the main stage. There is more than enough for that limited purpose.
3) Nate doesn’t give it much weight as shown below Nate gives it the maximum weight in swing states.
Now for the particulars;
2.1 Gravis Marketing as ambitious.
Before August 9th we can find no polling results for Gravis Marketing.
In the last 66 days they have become the most proficient pollster in swing states, and with the average of polling the most influential in the combined polling results.
Here are examples from RCP polling summaries
Before August 16 there were 40 polls completed, none by Gravis Marketing. In the 66 Days since Gravis published there have been 16 pollsters with published results:
Gravis Marketing 5
Of the last 26 polls all have Obama ahead in Ohio except for 2 from Gravis and one each from ARG and WeAskAmerica, all Republican pollsters.
Prior to Gravis there were 56 polls. Since Gravis started in 8/9 there have been 29 polls;
And 15 other pollsters with 20 polls.
Before Gravis first poll 8/9 there were 15 polls and after 21
Ras,ARG, CBS, Denver, PPP, Purple all have 2
But it isn’t just by quantity that Gravis Marketing throws big weight around
Go to Nate’s 538 for North Carolina. http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/author/nate-silver/
Gravis Marketing has a single entry showing Romney 8 points up. Nate gives this poll more weight (maximum 4 bars) than Rasmussen (1 and 3 bars) and High Point University (2 and 1 bar).
then there is
where Gravis has Romney winning the AA vote
Black 40.34 Obama 2.12 Other 57.54 Romney 100.00 total
and he still gets the highest rating. Sorry about that Scott.
2.2 Gravis Marketing as a small small business.
It is listed under numerous profiles as having 2-4 employees.
You can see the small little strip office below at Google maps and it houses the following business, oddly enough Gravis Marketing isn’t even listed as a tenant.;
Central Florida Environmental
Integrity Restoration & Remodeling
Mars Financial Group
Music Teachers Collective
Pro-Rehab Contracting Inc
Products Llc JB
Solutions of America
Total Water Treatment, inc
2.3 Douglas Kaplan legal difficulties as a marketing fax scammer.
What did Kaplan do between DeVry and becoming the nation’s most influential pollster?
He had a small level con operation as a massive fax spammer. There is a lot of evidence here so I will summarize what we have;
Here is a Rip Off Report (yes I know that RipOff Report is a shake down artist)
Douglas Kaplan is the owner. He’s a little weird quiet guy who talks behind everyones back. He doesn’t say anything to anyone directly because he isn’t a big fan of confrontation. his cell# is 407-463-2157 you can call him directly for a refund. he has money. or e-mail him at email@example.com
Also they only take check by phone. Doug wasn’t able to get a merchant account cause noone trusts him at all–actually come to think of it–the resorts he’s selling the vacations for doesnt know he’s involved otherwise they wouldnt deal with him–so they use other names….
Here is a legal citation by the FCC
With about a dozen business aliases I don’t think its too much to call Kaplan a small time con, do you Mr. Silver?
It has come to our attention that your company recently sent
an unsolicited advertisement to a telephone facsimile machine
(see attachment). Pursuant to the Telephone Consumer Protection
Act of 1991 (TCPA) and the Commission’s rules, it is unlawful to
use a “telephone facsimile machine, computer, or other device to
send an unsolicited advertisement to a telephone facsimile
machine.” 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(C); 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200(a)(3).
In addition to the violation identified above, it appears
that your company has also violated the provisions of the TCPA
and the Commission’s rules that require any person or entity who
sends a message via a telephone facsimile machine to clearly mark
“in a margin at the top or bottom of each transmitted page of
the message or on the first page of the transmission, the date
and time it is sent and an identification of the business, other
entity, or individual sending the message and the telephone
number of the sending machine or of such business, other entity,
or individual.” 47 U.S.C. § 227(d)(1)(B); 47 C.F.R. §
That was in 2001. In 2005 he was sued by Disney for using their name in fax marketing scam
According to the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Orlando, Wood and several other defendants representing I Marketing Co. of Oviedo allegedly marketed “Disney” vacation packages without Disney’s permission. Unsolicited faxes showed images of Disney characters; customers who called the toll-free number allegedly were told they had reached the “Disney Reservation Center” or “Disney Reservations.”
And so it goes with Mr. Kaplan’s previous ‘marketing’ expertise.
2.4 Right Wing Confident and Republican booster
Kaplan was recorded as a part of a Republican meet up site, now washed clean
Ben Sep 18, 2012 9:14:00 PM
Would you look at this! The jig is up, Doug!
He also has been a donor for Republicans and when Limbaugh started his campaign to try and boost Hillary to keep the primaries going he contributed to Hillary.
Kaplan also lists two media appearances;
One is with the Voice of Russia (more on that later)
And the other is
Ed Dean is a radical right radio show that boasts he is slotted between O’Reilly and Sean Hannity
If you go to his website he lists a bunch of regular contributors, including somebody by the name of “Bamboo Bob” but alas
does not thank Kaplan, even though Kaplan lists it as one of his two media outlets.
2.5 limited educational background
With Mr. Kaplans’ penchant for self promotion I believe that he would have told us if he had graduated. All we have is that he ‘entered’ DeVry.
2.6 No previous polling experience
Prior to August this year there is no evidence of Kaplan being connected to a professional polling firm, and the junk fax spamming is the only marketing we have seen from him.
2.7 Limited Grasp of the Political Process
Here we make our first visit to an actual encounter with Kaplan at the AngryBear blog
He was able to con Voice of Russia into believing that he is a national pollster and they included him in a talk show
Doug joins the team of nitwits at 5:00
First of all you hear them talking about a Capitol Correspondent/Gravis Marketing poll. Try to find any January poll under Gravis or Capitol Correspondent.
You can hear his co conspirator prompting him on. It sounds about the same sophistication you can hear at a Star Bucks. No real gravity to what he is saying, “Paul wants input at the convention” etc.
At 25:31 he starts blathering about South Carolina, that is just weird and seems completely unaware of how Republican primaries are run, especially NH, Iowa, and SC. He pulls out of his ass that “South Carolina is the most socially conservative state in the country”. Well the very socially conservative Republican Party in Iowa that almost always votes for the guy that is closest to being a minister wins would be astonished to hear that.
All he can come up with is that it is in the ‘South’ and that it is ‘Conservative’. He seems unaware of South Carolina’s past importance of a winner take all state in the Republican’s front loaded system and the changes to the rules in this year’s Republican Primary.
Time and again he apologizes for Republican vulnerabilities like Gingrich’s wife and Romney’s offshore account.
His insight states that he thinks “Republicans are torn with Romney”.
2.8 a startling pedestrian ability to communicate effectively about the political process he claims to be an expert in.
In the Angry Bear Blog
There are just weird statements like
The poll was conducted when Sandra Fluke in town in August. We polled woman and asked them
Numerous questions. So you should look at the questions we asked.
At one point one obvious Republican supporter gives this priceless advice to Kaplan
DOUG, STOP CORRESPONDING WITH THESE IDIOTS. You make yourself look unprofessional by engaging in a comment section, especially when you write with numerous typos. Not sure a legitimate pollster would feel the need to waste his time in a place like this. That’s for people like me who want to find out about your poll, and now I think I have my answer.
2.9 Has no effective business plan and states that he is deriving zero revenues
Kaplan at Angry Bear
You are the one talking about me Trust me I’m far from a republican operative or taking marching orders from Rush. I do wish the GOP would hire us because this is allot of abuse for putting out polls on my own dime.
. . .
This will be my last comment, I have gone above and beyond responding.
This is automated polling, just like PPP and the rest. We do live polling as well, however it is cost prohibitive. Push Polling is a completely different thing, which are not part of our polls.
These are self funded, we believe the we have an non-partisan perspective that is not out there
2.10 has an outrageously adolescent professional portfolio
2.11 Embarrassing display of testimonials
But they do have testimonials, all politically related.
There is “Cindy L” in Oregon and “Chris Young” in Rhode Island, both very satisfied and anonymous.
Mike Hardin is very happy with “Doug and the rest of the folks” at Gravis (pretty impressive for a 2-4 employee company).
Mike is also a political consultant (probably a roommate from college) but if you Google Mike Hardin political consultant all you get is the Gravis referral page, and this letter to the editor in Sacramento:
The Democratic legislative leadership makes me sick. How dare they place themselves above the thousands of state employees who suffered through furloughs for almost two years and face them again. Speaker John A. Perez derides the California Citizens Compensation Commission. Of course, this is a blip in terms of the budget mess. But why not suffer together through this recession? The political scientists quoted throughout the article are no better. What are they thinking?
Now there is some very sophisticated political analysis.
Leaving us with a single actual political candidate who endorses Gravis Marketing.
And he is a ‘Democrat’, Chris Benjamin.
Except it turns out that Benjamin is also a fraud:
After it was revealed that Chris Benjamin, a municipal judge and part time political consultant, is having serious personal financial problems, questions are being raised about his ability to manage public funds. Benjamin is most infamous for switching parties to run for the State Senate as a Democrat in 2008.
Either Benjamin was one of these guys that takes money to run as a Democrat so that the Republican can win easily or he ran as a Democrat because he thought he might make money it doesn’t really matter.
And that is Gravis Marketing’s great success and only identified public client.
2.12 With an apparent failed attempt to become a partisan political money launderer
People want a ‘smoking gun’. What about this. Kaplan, the so called non partisan pollster tried to set up a Super Pac so that he could manage media dollars and take a cut. Now, Mr. Silver would you consider this normal behavior for a national pollster, a ‘non partisan’ one at that?.
Committee Name: Protect Candidate Speech Pac
Treasurer: Douglas Joseph Kaplan
Committee Designation: Unauthorized
Committee Type: PAC
After Citizens United Kaplan just wanted a little share of all of that Koch money, just like any national pollster.
2.13 Kaplan as non partisan
Even though he is obviously slanted he continues to be noted by both RCP and Silver as ‘non partisan’.
III. Part Three Looking at the Problems of Gravis Marketing Polls.
There is a lot to be covered here so I just included some basic points. If needed this can be dealt in more detail. So many anomalies. North Carolina gives only 1 in 4 independents going to Obama, in Colorado more AA support Romney than the President, Michigan, Gravis is the only pollster to put the state into the EOM.
3.1 Limited Math
The blog Angry Bear had an interesting encounter with Kaplan where he feebly came on to defend Gravis:
I recently read the entire results of the Gravis August poll of Pennsylvania preferences for Senate and President. I found the document to be sloppy and amateurish. Worse, I found a glaring mistake in the tabulations. I pointed out the mistake both on the Gravis blog (my comment was deleted by the blog administrator) and via email directly to Doug (still no reply after 12 hours).
Here is the mistake … follow along:
The executive summary of the poll states that 46.76% of respondents support Tom Smith for Senate and that Smith leads Sen. Bob Casey 47% to 24% — a difference of 23 percentage points. A few paragraphs later, the executive summary says that Smith leads Casey by 19 points. The pie chart accompanying the executive summary shows 46.76% for Smith, 28.06% for Casey, and 25.18% undecided.
The news release announcing the poll’s results, meanwhile, refers to Smith receiving 46.76% support. Later, it says “the Polling shows a close race for President and Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey with a decent lead.”
A look at the poll’s cross tabs reveals a serious mistake in the calculations. According to the cross tabs, 234 respondents said they would vote for Casey, 195 would vote for Smith, and 70 are undecided. Percentages are:
Either Gravis fails at basic math, or it is intentionally misstating the poll’s results — I don’t know which is worse.
I see many other problems with the methodology — a poll conducted just one weekday afternoon; way too many respondents over age 50; too many whites; female and minority support for republicans that defies national trends, etc.
But this error is simple math. How could Gravis so seriously misstate the poll’s results? How is it that they have any credibility in any polling work?
3.2 Who has become the most dominant polling source from many key swing states
As detailed in 2.1 Above
3.3 Becomes the highest weighted pollster for Silver
Start with North Carolina and work through the swing states. Nate consistently gives Gravis Marketing a full maximum 4 bar rating
3.4 Most frequently used by RCP
For Ohio, Florida and Colorado Gravis Marketing has more polls posted at RCP than any other since Gravis started producing. See 2.1 for the numbers.
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