Sunday, July 16, 2017

What Did Trump Get For His $91 Million?

One of the things that ought to be tracked down and explained is the role that Mr. Brad Parscale had in helping Donald Trump get elected president. 

We know a few things about Parscale and his use of digital information to manipulate public opinion and bombard people with fake news, but we really need to focus on what he did and whether or not he received or sent information to the Russian government.

This is a good place to start if you want to know why this matters:

On Friday, Trump’s bearded digital data guru Brad Parscale accepted an invitation to testify before the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation.

The committee is probing whether the Trump camp colluded with Russia in unleashing fake news and propaganda to undermine the candidacy of Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton. Parscale says he is unaware of any Russian involvement in Trump’s digital and data campaign.

Parscale is credited with persuading Trump to take digital seriously, and increase spending on the online campaign when it lagged far behind that of the Clinton effort. Unlike other key Trump officials, he has so far stayed out of the spotlight.

A Kansas native, Parscale coordinated Trump’s digital strategy from the San Antonio headquarters of his web marketing firm, Giles-Parscale.

According to a 2016 Wired profile, he started out with a $500 investment after graduating from Trinity University, cold calling potential clients before graduating to building websites for organizations including the Trump Winery and Eric Trump Foundation.

It's one thing to build websites; it's entirely another thing to manipulate information in order to mislead the electorate. The revelation that Parscale was in Trump Tower the day Donald Trump Jr. met with either eight or forty people is pretty important to remember.

He told the magazine Trump gave “a farm boy from Kansas” a chance. “When I was successful, he continued to reward me over and over again, because I worked hard and produced success,” he said.

During the presidential campaign, the Trump camp paid a whopping $91 million to the firm, which prior to 2016 had no experience in political campaigning.

Pay attention to that figure; that's a ridiculous amount of money. That's enough to transform any business into something entirely different from what it started out as. I would think that someone in Congress or the Justice Department would want to really parse what that amount of money actually buys. Maybe, just maybe, Parscale and his company were able to fleece money out of Trump. But, given the fact that Trump rarely, if ever, pays his bills, there had to really be something valuable on the other end of those payments.

According to CNN, the campaign’s data operation helped it to figure out where Trump’s message was resonating in states such Michigan and Wisconsin, which were traditionally pro-Democrat but switched to the Republicans and handed Trump victory. 

The campaign was sophisticated and carried on in a vast scale, running as many as 50,000 Facebook ads a day to establish which ones resonated best with voters, reported Wired, and paying for "dark posts" that are publically invisible and show up in a voter's news feed.

Now, here's where we really need to start paying attention. If Parscale's methods are not illegal, fine and dandy. The Democratic Party better figure out what he was doing and come up with a way of countering this use of technology. 

If Parscale is found to have broken election laws, I wouldn't put my faith in the Federal Elections Commission to levy much in the way of punishment. Election laws are basically toothless in this country. If Parscale was sending and receiving information through a middleman to Russia, then we're off and running.

My guess is that the Trump campaign fully weaponized the donor database that it created in the primary season. I think they combined that with whatever they could buy on the open market--failed campaigns, think tanks, and the Republican National Committee probably provided voter and donor information to Trump in exchange for payments (Congress should look into that as soon as possible in order to determine who else was helping the Trump campaign convert this data into something the Russians could use).

They probably used a middleman. Parscale's company would likely have sent database files back to a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) site controlled by the Trump campaign. There, the file could have been transferred to the Russians. The Russians, in turn, could have their own files filled with U.S. voter information, likely stolen or hacked from sources in the states. Each side could then, in turn, manipulate and push fake news and targeted advertising to the people on those lists. 

Given Trump's razor-thin margin of victory in the states that were heavily targeted, both Parscale and the Russians could have been working tirelessly to trick those people into believing something that wasn't true by using false advertising. It's one thing if the Trump campaign did this in conjunction with Parscale's company and "won" the election. It's another thing entirely if these entities had help from the Russians and benefitted from information stole from State voter rolls, the Democratic Party, and any other group or person. 

No matter what happens, Parscale's testimony is important and it will shed some light on what the Trump campaign got for that $91 million.

No comments:

Post a Comment