Laura Belmont – Civis Analytics Inc.
- Written by: David Harry
- Produced by: Zachary Brann & Gavin O’Connor
- Est. reading time: 5 mins
Laura Belmont felt the stakes were so high in the 2020 presidential election that she took a three-month leave of absence from her job as in-house counsel at Comcast to help lead voter protection efforts in Pennsylvania.
Beginning in August that year, Belmont served as regional voter protection director for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and the Biden-Harris Coordinated Campaign. She designed, enhanced and oversaw early voting, poll observer and canvass observer programs—then returned to Comcast the day after President Joe Biden’s victory was certified in the Keystone State.
Belmont’s voter protection work led to an unexpected career turn, too. About five months after returning to Comcast, she was recruited to join Civis Analytics as its general counsel. Civis Analytics offers data management solutions enabling customers to import, clean, analyze and report on data collected from a variety of systems and channels for outreach.
“Civis helps organizations understand their own person-level data so that they can reach their audiences with the right message at the right time,” Belmont says. “Being able to leverage their own data will be even more important for organizations as third-party cookies are phased out.”
Analytics beyond politics
Civis Analytics’ origins are somewhat linked to Belmont’s work with the Biden-Harris campaign, and not just because the company found her resume in a Google folder created and shared with permission by campaign staff.
In fact, Civis Analytics was founded in 2013 by Dan Wagner shortly after he had led data analytics efforts to help reelect President Barack Obama—with Biden as his vice president.
Encouraged by Eric Schmidt, then the executive chairman at Google and a technology advisor to the Obama campaign, to apply data analytics outside political campaigns, Wagner founded Civis Analytics in his Chicago apartment. He received advice and financial backing from Schmidt, who continues to serve on the company’s board of directors.
The Civis platform consolidates and cleans data from any source, such as Salesforce or website signups, and makes it accurate, accessible and usable. Platform subscribers also can fill in gaps in their existing data with personal-level attributes such as demographics, activities and interests modeled on millions of nationwide survey responses, as well as share their findings with reports and graphics.
“We’ve found that almost all organizations face similar data problems, including needing to eliminate data silos, report to stakeholders and harness their data for planning,” Belmont says. “Nonprofits need to know how to engage their membership and raise funds. Commercial organizations want to know who is most likely to buy their product. Governments need to understand constituents to properly allocate funding.”
With her team of one other attorney as well as three people working in cybersecurity, Belmont manages all legal and compliance issues, including contracting, product counseling, intellectual property and employment as well as privacy.
Profit + purpose
Shortly after joining Civis, Belmont suggested the company leverage its existing intelligence center technology to issues relating to the digital divide, which is the gap between those who have ready access to computers and the internet and those who don’t. The intelligence center technology had been developed to support awareness campaigns around the U.S. Census and COVID-19 vaccinations.
The result is Civis’s Digital Equity Intelligence Center, launched in 2022. It provides subscribers with digital equity models and an interactive map-based application that can assist governments in understanding digital affordability, access and adoption in their communities. It has been used by governments in California and Texas, and Belmont is responding to requests for proposals to add the product to other agencies.
Belmont has always wanted to apply her legal expertise to a cause—she became an attorney because she wanted to advocate for people while seeing her sister live with a profound disability.
“What’s unique about my journey is I’ve worked in a lot of sectors—nonprofit, law firm, in-house and even a campaign,” Belmont says. “These experiences have taught me the legal profession isn’t binary – you can work for a for-profit company that has a purpose and a conscience.”
Belmont is a native of West Philly, a neighborhood in the City of Brotherly Love. She first earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University and then worked as a policy analyst for two years at the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation. There, she advised and educated lawmakers on issues relating to access to education, healthcare and affordable housing for people with disabilities.
After Belmont earned her J.D. from American University Washington College School of Law in 2009, she became an attorney with the nonprofit Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
In 2010, she entered private practice as an attorney with the firm of Latham & Watkins. She advised clients in a range of industries on compliance and enforcement issues and litigation regarding anti-corruption and international trade laws.
Belmont also did pro bono work by assisting humanitarian organizations in securing government licenses to allow aid to embargoed countries. She also represented people who are incarcerated with First and Eighth Amendment cases involving the right to pray while at prison work, denial of mental health supports and other prison conditions that are cruel and unusual punishment.
Before taking her leave at Comcast in 2020, she suggested the telecom enable the voice feature on its remote control devices so that someone saying “how to vote” or “cómo votar” could get voting information such as how to register and where and how to vote in the 2020 general election. Comcast implemented the idea throughout its subscriber base.
Though she wasn’t familiar with Civis Analytics before she was recruited, Belmont says she likes where the company is headed and how she gets to contribute to its growth.
“Joining Civis was too good to pass up,” she says. “I love the opportunity to work with tech, product and sales teams and marry my interests in helping businesses thrive with supporting some of the most pressing social issues of our time.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Spring III 2023 Edition here.
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