Jim Gilliam was a precocious young conservative Christian who grew up in Silicon Valley and became a talented programmer. After fighting cancer, he lost his faith in God and found a passion for progressive causes. NationBuilder, a piece of software he built to—in his own words—help “democratize democracy,” has had some of his progressive friends consider him a traitor:

“Before he’d written a single line of code, Gilliam had decided that NationBuilder would be nonpartisan. Aaron Straus Garcia, a field organizer on Obama’s 2008 campaign who briefly worked at NationBuilder, recalls a conversation he had with Gilliam early on. ‘What happens when the Tea Party comes knocking on our door?’ Garcia asked. Gilliam’s response was immediate: ‘There’s no way we close doors, or we start picking or choosing. This is what will set us apart.’

“It was always going to be a controversial strategy. Gilliam’s activist friends saw him as both a leader and a product of the netroots; the liberal Campaign for America’s Future had even given him an award for being an unsung progressive hero. Now he was courting Republicans, trying to persuade them to use his product to defeat Democrats. In June 2012, NationBuilder announced that it had signed “probably the largest deal ever struck in political technology” with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), whose primary mission is to elect GOP candidates at the state level. His competitors scoffed at the claim, but the agreement potentially put NationBuilder into the hands of several thousand Republican politicians.”