Trump 2020 working with ex-Cambridge Analytica staffers

A company run by former officials at Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm brought down by a scandal over how the item obtained Facebook users’ private data, has quietly been working for President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election effort, The Associated Press has learned.

The AP confirmed of which at least four former Cambridge Analytica employees are affiliated with Data Propria, a fresh company specializing in voter in addition to consumer targeting work similar to Cambridge Analytica’s efforts before its collapse. The company’s former head of product, Matt Oczkowski, leads the fresh firm, which also includes Cambridge Analytica’s former chief data scientist.

Oczkowski denied a link to the Trump campaign, yet acknowledged of which his fresh firm has agreed to do 2018 campaign work for the Republican National Committee. Oczkowski led the Cambridge Analytica data team which worked on Trump’s successful 2016 campaign.

The AP learned of Data Propria’s role in Trump’s re-election effort as a result of conversations held with political contacts in addition to prospective clients in recent weeks by Oczkowski. In one such conversation, which took place in a public place in addition to was overheard by two AP reporters, Oczkowski said he in addition to in addition to Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, were “doing the president’s work for 2020.”

In addition, a person familiar with Data Propria’s Washington efforts, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect business relationships, confirmed to the AP of which Trump-related 2020 work already had begun at the firm along the lines of Cambridge Analytica’s 2016 work.

Both Oczkowski in addition to Parscale told the AP of which no Trump re-election work by Data Propria was even planned, yet confirmed of which Parscale had helped Data Propria line up a successful bid on 2018 midterm polling-related work for the RNC, awarded earlier This particular week. Oczkowski called the contract modest.

Oczkowski had previously told the AP the firm had no intention of seeking political clients. After being informed the AP had overheard him directly discussing campaign work, he said his young company had changed course in addition to of which whatever he’d said about the 2020 campaign would likely have been speculative.

“I’m obviously open to any work of which would likely become available,” Oczkowski said, noting of which he in addition to Parscale had worked together closely during Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Parscale told the AP of which he has not even begun awarding contracts for the 2020 campaign, which he was appointed to manage in March.

“I am laser-focused on the 2018 midterms in addition to holding the House in addition to increasing our seats from the Senate,” he said. “Once we do those things, I’ll start working on re-electing President Trump.”

London-based Cambridge Analytica was accused of playing a key role from the 2014 breach of 87 million Facebook users’ personal data. The company said the item did not use the information for Trump’s 2016 campaign, yet some former employees have disputed of which. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said of which the item was “entirely possible” the social media data ended up being used in Russian propaganda efforts.

In May, Cambridge Analytica filed for bankruptcy in addition to said the item was “ceasing all operations.” A British investigation of Cambridge Analytica in addition to its parent company will continue despite the shutdown, the U.K.s Information Commissioner’s office said last month.

The description of Data Propria’s efforts overheard by the AP reporters tracks closely with the services Cambridge Analytica provided to both commercial clients in addition to Trump’s 2016 campaign, including profiling voters based on data about them in a process known as “psychography.” The technique classifies people according to their attitudes, aspirations in addition to some other psychological criteria to tailor advertisements or marketing strategies.

Oczkowski told the AP of which three of the people on Data Propria’s 10-person team are Cambridge Analytica alumni, yet said they were focused on campaign operations in addition to data analysis — not behavioral psychology.

Data Propria can be “not going down the psychometrics side of things,” he said.

Among the former Cambridge Analytica employees can be David Wilkinson, a British citizen who was the company’s lead data scientist. During the 2016 campaign, Wilkinson helped oversee the voter data modeling of which informed Trump’s focus on the Rust Belt, according to a Cambridge Analytica press Discharge issued after the election.

Federal election law bars foreign nationals coming from “directing, controlling or directly or indirectly participating from the decision-producing process” of U.S. campaigns. The public advocacy group Common Cause filed a complaint with the FEC in March alleging of which Cambridge Analytica’s foreign employees broke of which law, though the complaint did not name Wilkinson.

Oczkowski told the AP of which the London-based Wilkinson can be a contractor in addition to will not be involved in Data Propria’s U.S. political work.

Another issue raised by Data Propria’s work on Trump’s re-election effort can be the firm’s financial links to Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager.

Parscale can be a part owner of Data Propria’s parent company, a publicly traded firm called Cloud Commerce of which bought his digital marketing business in August. Over the last year, Cloud Commerce has largely rebuilt itself around Parscale’s former company, today rebranded Parscale Digital. Parscale sits on Cloud Commerce’s board of directors in addition to provides the company with the majority of its $2.9 million in revenue, according to the company’s most recent Securities in addition to Exchange Commission filing.

By working which has a Cloud Commerce subsidiary, the Trump campaign could be helping Parscale profit beyond his $15,000 monthly campaign retainer in addition to the commissions he has been collecting on Trump’s digital advertising spending.

While Parscale’s personal business still works for the campaign, the item’s unclear how of which work may be changing today of which he has become Trump’s official campaign manager.

Under one contract between Parscale in addition to Cloud Commerce, he receives a 5 percent cut of every dollar collected by Parscale Digital — which can be largely composed of the web marketing business Parscale sold to Cloud Commerce last year. In SEC filings, Cloud Commerce has estimated of which Parscale’s cut of those revenues, excluding pass through payments, would likely total between $850,000 in addition to $1.3 million. Parscale Digital would likely not be directly receiving funds coming from the RNC or the campaign.

Even though Parscale can be not directly receiving money coming from Data Propria work, the firms provide each some other with business in addition to Data Propria’s success would likely help Cloud Commerce pay off the money the item owns Parscale.

A second agreement obligates Cloud Commerce to pay Parscale $85,150 a month as part of its separate $1 million purchase of his former web-hosting business. Parscale earns another $3,000 per month coming from leasing computers in addition to office furniture to Cloud Commerce.

Trevor Potter, a Republican who once headed the Federal Election Commission in addition to today leads the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, said the item was unusual for an incumbent president’s campaign to direct large amounts of business to outside firms tied to his campaign manager.

Such arrangements are more common for long-shot candidates in need of expertise, he said.

“Top-notch candidates have bargaining power in addition to are less likely to put up with of which,” Potter said. “the item sounds like a very rich opportunity for Mr. Parscale, yet of which’s actually the candidate’s call.”

Aside coming from the ties to Parscale, Cloud Commerce’s parent company can be an unusual candidate for blue chip political work. Founded in 1999, the firm has repeatedly changed its name in addition to business type, in addition to the company’s most recent audit “expressed substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern” without continuing infusions of cash.

An AP investigation of Cloud Commerce in March found of which a former CEO of its predecessor firm pleaded guilty to stock fraud in 2008 in addition to remained active in Cloud Commerce’s affairs until at least 2015. Cloud Commerce says the man has had no connection with its business since at least 2011.

The AP also found discrepancies from the professional biography of current Cloud Commerce chief executive Andrew Van Noy, who has told investors of which he worked for Morgan Stanley in addition to was a private equity executive from the years immediately preceding his arrival at Cloud Commerce in 2011.

Van Noy’s August 2010 Utah bankruptcy filing conflicts with of which portrayal, showing he spent most of the prior two in addition to a half years unemployed. The filings also reveal of which Van Noy had been accused of selling unlicensed securities in addition to using $100,000 of an investor’s money for personal purposes.

“Luckily I have not had to go to the homeless shelter,” Van Noy wrote to of which investor in 2011 after the man asked what had happened to his investment. After the man sued for fraud, Van Noy agreed to pay him $105,000.

A year later, he became president of Cloud Commerce.

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