How Cambridge Analytica Helped Trump: Explaining Firm’s Role in President’s Campaign

The data firm used by President Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election faces serious accusations of unethical business practices following a report and video released Monday showing the company’s CEO giving examples of untoward services.

But what exactly did Cambridge Analytica, the data-mining firm started by billionaire conservative Robert Mercer and former White House political strategist Steve Bannon, actually do for Trump’s campaign that put it front and center on the global political stage?

British television station Channel 4 secretly recorded video that seems to show the head of the company, Alexander Nix, talking about using bribery and sex workers as tactics to achieve success in campaigns around the world.

The firm has also attempted to take some of the credit for helping Trump claim the White House. However, the campaign has since pushed back on that claim.

The Trump campaign originally hired Cambridge Analytica for the 2016 primaries and during the summer that year. All told, the firm collected $5.9 million from the campaign.

But in late September 2016, after Trump had achieved the Republican nomination, the campaign’s digital director, Brad Parscale, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, instead decided to use the Republican National Committee’s data for the final run of the campaign, according to CBS News.

GettyImages-607814926 Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix speaks at the 2016 Concordia Summit at the Grand Hyatt New York hotel on September 19, 2016, in New York City. Getty Images for Concordia Summit/Bryan Bedder

The CBS report stated Cambridge Analytica was employed to do “targeted digital advertising,” as well as a “large TV buy” for advertising, but the campaign’s digital arm was built around data from the RNC.

During the primaries, Cambridge Analytica did more for Trump campaign. The campaign offered more explanation last year, after Nix was found to have contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

In June 2016, the firm sent three staffers, including its head of product, Matt Oczkowski, to a Trump campaign office in San Antonio, Texas, and Parscale told Wired in October that they provided analysis about American voters, but specified that no raw data was supplied. Furthermore, both Parscale and Oczkowski said the Trump campaign did not use Cambridge Analytica’s “psychographic targeting,” which uses data based on voters' personalities.

“The RNC was the voter file of record for the campaign, but we were the intelligence on top of the voter file,” Oczkowski told Wired. “Sometimes, the sales pitch can be a bit inflated, and I think people can misconstrue that.”

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