Trump’s Campaign Didn’t Use Cambridge Analytica’s Pyschographics; Did His SuperPAC?

In the wake of news that the head of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, offered to help Julian Assange with the stolen Hillary emails, Wired has a good story on what Trump’s campaign did with CA. In general, it says that the campaign did not rely on CA’s data, nor did it use CA’s famed psychographics based in part of Facebook data.

Cambridge worked both for the Trump campaign and a Trump-aligned Super PAC. In June 2016, Cambridge sent three staffers, led by chief product officer Matt Oczkowski, to the campaign’s San Antonio office. Oczkowski’s team eventually grew to 13 people, working under Trump digital director Brad Parscale and alongside his staff and outside consultants. According to Parscale, the Cambridge staff provided useful analysis of data about the American electorate. They did not, however, provide the raw data—things like demographic information, contact information, and data about how voters feel about different issues—on which that analysis was done.

That may sound like a small distinction, but it’s a crucial one. Ever since it burst onto the scene of American politics in 2015, Cambridge has trumpeted its massive data trove, boasting 5,000 data points on every American. Cambridge claims to have built extensive personality profiles on every American, which it uses for so-called “psychographic targeting,” based on people’s personality types. It is feared by some, including Hillary Clinton, for conducting a kind of psychological warfare against the American people and dismissed by others as snake oil. Both Parscale and Oczkowski have said repeatedly that the Trump campaign did not use psychographic targeting.

In fact, however, the story suggests Trump’s campaign did use CA data for a month, in July, because the RNC wasn’t yet sharing its data with Trump.

The Cambridge staff helped the campaign identify which voters in the RNC’s data file were most likely to be persuadable, meaning they were undecided but looked likely to swing toward Trump. They also created lists of voters who were most likely to become donors. In August 2016, a Trump aide told me Cambridge was critical to helping the campaign raise $80 million in the prior month, after a primary race that had been largely self-funded by Trump. This was the only period during which Oczkowski’s staff relied on Cambridge’s data, because the RNC was just beginning to share its data with the Trump team.

According to the WSJ, July is when Nix reached out to Assange.

But there’s another implicit revelation in the story: in explaining why he didn’t know about Nix’s outreach to Assange, CA chief product officer Matt Oczkowski, who led CA’s efforts with the campaign, said that they were walled off from CA because of rules prohibiting cooperation between campaigns and SuperPACs.

“I had absolutely no understanding any of this was going on, and I was surprised as everybody else when I saw the story” about Nix’s approach to Assange, Oczkowski says. During the campaign, he says his team was walled off from the rest of Cambridge, because the company was also working with a Trump Super PAC.

Which of course suggests that CA was embedded even more with the SuperPAC.

And that, in turn, raises a slew of other questions. For example, did people who left the Trump campaign — most notably Roger Stone — have any ties with the SuperPAC? After all, Stone had a role in efforts to find Hillary’s emails and surely a bunch of other rat-fuckery (because that’s what rat-fuckers do). So did the wing that was openly asking Russians for help also have closer ties to the more sordid aspects of what CA does?

25 replies
  1. matt says:

    EW what you are describing is a big, big deal.  It frustrates me that people think the voter machines need to be hacked to turn the election.  They do not.  Advertising is psychological  science, and CA/Russians used that science in the most sinister TARGETED way with fake news/ads in 2016.  And, while some were overt, “Hillary for Prison,” targeted to the Republican base, others were more subtle.  I am democratic voter in WI, and I can tell you I saw display ads online that played into apathy in the Dems… as in, “why vote for a candidate that you don’t like”… or, “its a no contest election, Hillary will surly win against Trump.”  I think that had the effect of psychologically influencing many WI Dems to stay home on election day.

    • orionATL says:

      you got to have faith in what you observed personally.

      here is a story about another serious and effective method of vote suppression employed in wisconsin similar to what you observed:

      in georgia recently the repository for voter information overseen by sec of state brian kemp had its computer discs wiped clean just after a law suit was filed against sec of state kemp (a notorious, high-handed vote suppressor).:

      • matt says:

        Yes! I saw the Mother Jones article.  WI has been hammered by the likes of Koch minions, Walker and Ryan (not to mention the State congress).  You know, we were so much happier here before they attacked public education, gutted the Department of Natural Resources (State equivalent of the EPA), and slashed BadgerCare.  A familiar story, I guess… But, add the PsyOps election ads + voter suppression + gerrymandering and you have an historically progressive state turn Red.

        • orionATL says:

          yes. it’s baffling and in a way, and really astonishing. i attribute it in some substantial part to the diminution of union membership and influence which in turn has social and economic change roots.

          in any event wisconsin, michigan, and almost what i used to think of as the most liberal and civic conscious state in the nation – minnesota.all in less than 2 decades.

  2. greengiant says:

    Vote fraud circa 1960 was just ballot stuffing,  result tampering,  vote early and often and vote machine tampering and so on.  Not much has changed in the 21st century except for a few people are a lot smarter and brazen. Now one person can hack every ballot reader or vote machine in the county or state.  Because there are no hand recounts, no audit trail, no verification that the ballots were counted correctly then anything goes.  Welcome to Wisconsin and Michigan and the UK Brexit vote.

    The troll farms are in a “what about” rut.  Talk about how many people Putin has murdered and it’s what about Hastings and Inslaw and suicided.  Talk about vote hacking and it’s what about social media like the Parscale 4,000 data points on every person social media campaign dark advertising.   Except wait a minute,  CA just said they did not provide Parscale with the 4,000 data points on every person cause they were sending a PAC that data.

    • orionATL says:

      don’t forget “walk around money” (for preachers), $5 bills, a pint of old grandad, and hand-done, supervised “recounts” with enough new-found votes. :)

  3. Desider says:

    @matt while the Russians have taught us a lot about abusing social media and discouraging voters, I still remain convinced Putin wasn’t spending billiins relying on marketing and chance.
    I suspect at some point we’ll find evidence of actual voting machine tampering – via the internet or local access. Though wiping voting machines makes this harder.

  4. pseudonymous in nc says:

    <a href=””>The Graun pointed to a presentation</a> from a Cambridge Analytica executive to a German tech conference, which is thin on details, but talks a little about targetting.

    I’d still like to know what those Custom Audience datasets looked like.

  5. Belly says:

    Can someone please provide a rough translation of “rat-fucker.” It seems to be quite a popular noun on this here blog

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Rat-fucking:  In tone similar to its literal meaning, it describes dirty tricks, lies, inventions, illegal and potentially illegal acts against one’s political opponents, designed to obstruct or destroy their credibility, their lives, their campaigns and their careers.  Nixon’s team apparently coined the term and was famous for it, notably using it against Edmund Muskie.  As a concept, it has been around since weapons were invented.

        Sometimes, it involves publicizing embarrassing factual material or threatening its disclosure to obtain a political end.  More often, it involves invented characterizations of facts, mixing lies and facts, or just making shit up.

        Typically, it involves cut-outs, to give the political patron plausible deniability.  It used to be behavior engaged in by a candidate’s dirty tricks squad, but publicly disavowed.  This administration does it on a daily basis on live television.  The Murdoch media and often the MSM amplify it endlessly.  In traditional Republican fashion, this administration and its enablers label the disclosure of their wrongdoing itself as a lie.  That leaves the average viewer free to drown in the MSM’s context-free, fair and balanced reporting.

        As with its constituent parts, the term can be used as a noun, verb, or adjective.

  6. Hannah says:

    Is this the Super PAC run by Robert and Rebekah Mercer? The one they funded along with CA, and Breitbart, and the Government Accountability Institute that produced Clinton Cash? The one that Kellyanne Conway used to run before the Mercers installed her and Bannon in the Trump campaign after Manafort was fired? The same one that used to support Ted Cruz and then flopped to Trump in the spring?

  7. Pete says:


    Total aside while waiting for trash talk…
    If OSU and Florida can rat-fuck PSU and Georgia respectively and Wisconsin beats Illinois as they should (but Wisconsin has been way too dramatic so far) then The Badgers probably enter the BCS chase.

    Rooting for OSU and The Gators will require several late Saturday showers.

    • bmaz says:

      Am about to work on the Trash, so the wait won’t be that long!

      Man, rooting for the Buckeyes and Gators?? Brutal.

  8. orionATL says:

    —- tearing the u. s. into pieces —-

    here is a story by reporter carole cadwalladr from the guardian. as i recall she did some work on u. s. election and cambridge analytica about its secret contract with another firm which reporting won her newspaper threats of a lawsuit from mercer. so there must have been some truth, right?

    anyway, i liked the feel and spirit and tone of her reporting then. i like it now:

    here is a quote. this stuff, e. g., a “detach california” campaign like the russian “detach texas” campaign on facebook, seems important, but is being ignored. the goal is clearly to tear the u. s. into pieces:

    “…. Yet it’s also quite simple. In a well-functioning democracy, a well-functioning press and a well-functioning parliament would help a well-functioning judiciary do its job. Britain is not that country. There is a vacuum where questions should be, the committees, the inquiries, the headlines on the TV bulletins. What was Nigel Farage doing in the Ecuadorian embassy? More to the point: why has no public official asked him? Why is he giving speeches – for money – in the US? Who’s paying him? I know this because my weirdest new hobby of 2017 is to harry Arron Banks, the Bristol businessman who was Ukip and Leave.EU’s main funder, and Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s comms man and Belize’s trade attache to the US, across the internet late at night. Wigmore told me about this new US venture – an offshore-based political consultancy working on Steve Bannon-related projects – in a series of tweets. Is it true? Who knows? Leave.EU has learned from its Trumpian friends that black is white and white is black and these half-facts are a convenient way of diffusing scandal and obscuring truth.

    What on earth was Farage doing advancing Calexit – Californian Brexit? And why did I find a photo of him hanging out with Dana Rohrabacher, the Californian known in the US press as “Putin’s favourite congressman”? The same Dana Rohrabacher who’s met with Don Trump Jr’s Russian lawyer and – wait for it –also visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy. And who is now interceding on his behalf to obtain a pardon from Don Trump Junior’s dad.

    (You got this? Farage visited Trump, then Assange, then Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher met Don Trump’s Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Then Assange. And is now trying to close the circle with Trump)… “

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