With help from a vast evangelical network and data on almost the entire US voting population, the Christian right may have found the boost it needed
By his own account, Bill Dallas grew up in an unhappy household. His mother had been sexually abused by her father and had her first pregnancy aged 17. Dallass dad was an alcoholic and a depressive whodied at 51. Dallas was an intense, obsessive child, dogged by feelings of inadequacy. You could say he was wired for the bitter schema of sin-and-salvation religion.
But despite his challenging start in life, he had clear talents. He attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, known for its vast academic offerings. He dreamed of becoming an actor and after graduating with honors, he moved to San Francisco. Blessed with photogenic looks, he modeled for a major retail chain. Soon Dallas was at the center of an energetic social whirl. He and his friends rented stretch limos and people gave him the nicknameMr GQ. Soon his connections started to yield fruit and temptation. Dallas found his way into real estate and then the money began to pour in. But even as he accumulated outward signs of success, Dallas couldnt shake the anxieties at his core. Then, things really fell apart.
Dallas has publicly offered few details of his crimes, but he was convicted of grand theft embezzlement and sentenced to prison. He was fined $772,000 in connection with illegal contributions to six candidates for city offices in Oakland.
As Dallas tells the story, he spent time in Susanville and then San Quentin prisons, moving into a cell on the fourth tier of North Block. It was there that his life began to turn around.
His prison experiences launched him towards a network of thousands of pastors, on the steering committee of Project Blitz, and in the cockpit of Christian nationalisms taxpayer-subsidized, data-driven voter turnout machine.
As Dallas became acclimated to life in prison, and with the assistance of some of the lifers he met there, he deepened his connection to God. He got a job at the prisons TV station, working his way up to being a producer and on-air host.
When he left prison, he says, he was in the best mental, physical and spiritual shape of his life. But he still hadnt paid his debts. Dallas owed multiple fines and taxes one fine alone was close to $750,000. He immediately looked for ways to make a living.
In March 1998, Dallas had a holy visitation, telling him to start a satellite network delivering ministry training programs to churches around the country. And he did conceiving of a national network of evangelical pastors and other church leaders. As it turns out, this was exactly what the growing Christian nationalist movement needed.
With the help of Silicon Valley businessmen including Reid Rutherford and venture capitalist John Mumford, Dallass Church Communication Network grew with exponential velocity.
But Dallas had a bolder vision. Working with thousands of pastors allowed him to reach literally millions of congregants and potentially millions of voters. With marketing and communications increasingly driven by data mining, he knew there had to be a better way to mobilize the nations conservative Christians.