“The Bolton PAC was obsessed with how America was becoming limp wristed and spineless and it wanted research and messaging for national security issues,” Mr. Wylie said.
“That really meant making people more militaristic in their worldview,” he added. “That’s what they said they wanted, anyway.”
.. One advertisement, a video that was posted on YouTube, was aimed at people who scored high for conscientiousness, and were thought to respect hard work and experience. It emphasized Mr. Bolton’s time working for Ronald Reagan and how Mr. Tillis embodied the spirit and political ethos of the late president.
.. Beyond their conservative politics, Mr. Trump, Mr. Bolton and Cambridge Analytica all share a patron — the Mercer family of Long Island
.. Cambridge Analytica, which grew out of the London-based SCL Group, was founded in 2014 with a $15 million investment from Mr. Mercer, whose daughter Rebekah sits on the firm’s board of directors. Stephen K. Bannon was also a co-founder.
.. At the same time, Mr. Mercer was financially supporting Mr. Bolton’s PAC, donating $5 million between April 2014 and September 2016
.. The profiles would be used to “identify the personality traits of individuals” in states to be targeted by the Bolton PAC
.. “We are producing ads specifically designed for voters of a certain personality and demographic profile. So if you’re a young woman in New Hampshire with a specific kind of personality and a particular set of issues that you care about, our research allows us to connect with that voter in a way that truly resonates with her.”
The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.
So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history.
The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.
Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge and worked there until late 2014, said of its leaders: “Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair.”
“They want to fight a culture war in America,” he added. “Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.”
.. Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of the trove.
Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.
.. suspending Cambridge Analytica, Mr. Wylie and the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American academic, from Facebook.
.. the company acknowledged that it had acquired the data, though it blamed Mr. Kogan for violating Facebook’s rules and said it had deleted the information as soon as it learned of the problem two years ago.
.. In Britain, Cambridge Analytica is facing intertwined investigations by Parliament and government regulators into allegations that it performed illegal work on the “Brexit” campaign.
.. Mr. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, a board member, Mr. Bannon and Mr. Nix received warnings from their lawyer that it was illegal to employ foreigners in political campaigns
.. WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, disclosed in October that Mr. Nix had reached out to him during the campaign in hopes of obtaining private emails belonging to Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
.. The data Cambridge collected from profiles, a portion of which was viewed by The Times, included details on users’ identities, friend networks and “likes.”
.. “Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do,” Mr. Grewal said. “No systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked.”
.. recruiting Mr. Wylie, then a 24-year-old political operative with ties to veterans of President Obama’s campaigns. Mr. Wylie was interested in using inherent psychological traits to affect voters’ behavior and had assembled a team of psychologists and data scientists, some of them affiliated with Cambridge University.
.. The group experimented abroad, including in the Caribbean and Africa, where privacy rules were lax or nonexistent
.. Mr. Nix and his colleagues courted Mr. Mercer, who believed a sophisticated data company could make him a kingmaker in Republican politics
.. Mr. Bannon was intrigued by the possibility of using personality profiling to shift America’s culture and rewire its politics
.. Building psychographic profiles on a national scale required data the company could not gather without huge expense. Traditional analytics firms used voting records and consumer purchase histories to try to predict political beliefs and voting behavior.
.. But those kinds of records were useless for figuring out whether a particular voter was, say, a neurotic introvert, a religious extrovert, a fair-minded liberal or a fan of the occult. Those were among the psychological traits the firm claimed would provide a uniquely powerful means of designing political messages.
.. Mr. Wylie found a solution at Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Centre. Researchers there had developed a technique to map personality traits based on what people had liked on Facebook. The researchers paid users small sums to take a personality quiz and download an app, which would scrape some private information from their profiles and those of their friends
.. When the Psychometrics Centre declined to work with the firm, Mr. Wylie found someone who would: Dr. Kogan, who was then a psychology professor at the university and knew of the techniques
.. All he divulged to Facebook, and to users in fine print, was that he was collecting information for academic purposes, the social network said.
.. Dr. Kogan declined to provide details of what happened, citing nondisclosure agreements with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica
.. He ultimately provided over 50 million raw profiles to the firm
.. Only about 270,000 users — those who participated in the survey — had consented to having their data harvested.
.. Mr. Wylie said the Facebook data was “the saving grace” that let his team deliver the models it had promised the Mercers.
.. The firm was effectively a shell.
.. But in July 2014, an American election lawyer advising the company, Laurence Levy, warned that the arrangement could violate laws limiting the involvement of foreign nationals in American elections.
.. In a BBC interview last December, Mr. Nix said that the Trump efforts drew on “legacy psychographics” built for the Cruz campaign.
.. By early 2015, Mr. Wylie and more than half his original team of about a dozen people had left the company. Most were liberal-leaning, and had grown disenchanted with working on behalf of the hard-right candidates the Mercer family favored.
.. Mr. Nix has mentioned some questionable practices. This January, in undercover footage filmed by Channel 4 News in Britain and viewed by The Times, he boasted of employing front companies and former spies on behalf of political clients around the world, and even suggested ways to entrap politicians in compromising situations.
.. Mr. Nix is seeking to take psychographics to the commercial advertising market. He has repositioned himself as a guru for the digital ad age — a “Math Man,” he puts it. In the United States last year, a former employee said, Cambridge pitched Mercedes-Benz, MetLife and the brewer AB InBev, but has not signed them on.
Reclusive U.S. billionaire Robert Mercer
helped Donald Trump win the
presidency. But what is his ultimate goal?
Bannon’s relationship with Robert Mercer is cited in a remarkable lawsuit brought by David Magerman, a former employee of Mercer’s hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies. On its surface, the lawsuit is a wrongful dismissal complaint against Mercer. But at its heart, it is an indictment of Mercer’s character and reputation that draws together his political views, his connections to Bannon and Trump and racist comments Mercer allegedly made to Magerman directly... “I have a lot of respect for Bob Mercer. I think he’s a very intelligent person, a very thoughtful person,” Magerman told me recently. But he quickly added, “If the world knew what he was trying to do, they wouldn’t stand for it.”.. He’s fond of talking about the time, years ago, when a colleague he was visiting summoned a helicopter to his estate to whisk them into Manhattan.
There was no life-or-death reason for the extravagance, not even a business emergency. They were just going to a dinner, he says, and his friend rented the chopper to avoid the bother of traffic. From the helicopter, Magerman saw his fellow citizens travelling along a thin ribbon of perfectly good highway below.
.. “Either you are in awe of the grandeur of commuting, taking a two-hour drive and turning it into a helicopter ride, or you can just be, like, disgusted by the waste.” As though there were even a sliver of doubt, Magerman added, “I was in the latter category.”
It wasn’t just the waste that gnawed at him — it was the trespass of a moral principle. The helicopter commute was an example of something that, if everyone did it, would obviously be wrong. ”10,000 people can’t be flying helicopters from their backyard,” he said.
.. Magerman calls that helicopter trip “extra-societal” and “outside the realm of normal behavior,” words that also fit what he believes is wrong with Mercer’s relationship to the president. Magerman thinks Mercer has bought special access to impose “extra-societal” views on the Trump administration.
.. “The ultra-wealthy of today differ from the ultra-wealthy in past eras in that they have, a lot of them, no stake in the infrastructure of society,” Magerman said. He’s seen that their wealth does not depend on the health and stability of the country. In fact, they get rich on volatility and instability.
.. Mercer is not a finance guy; he is a computer scientist. But his research developing speech translation programs through pattern recognition can apparently also be used to discover obscure patterns in the financial markets and make an enormous fortune
.. Instead of poring over prospectuses and profit and loss statements, they apply their sciences to the data that affect markets. It’s called quantitative analysis, and they themselves are known as “quants.”
.. Medallion has pumped out annualized returns of almost 80 per cent a year, before fees.” Even in a bad year, it churns out more than 20 per cent returns.
.. “The people I worked with were great scientists. I mean, we could have solved a lot of important and interesting problems if we’d worked on different things. Instead, we made hundreds of millions of dollars,
.. The problem that Renaissance Technologies faced trying to predict market behaviour is, he said, essentially the same problem that Cambridge Analytica faces in voter analysis and persuasion.
.. Data analysts are largely skeptical that Cambridge Analytica could have had a decisive impact on the 2016 U.S. election or the Brexit referendum, but Magerman brushes that off with a reminder that so-called experts were also skeptical that computer algorithms could predict financial markets.
.. , “Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the president’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it all to fall down.”
.. They didn’t get rich by providing the goods, services and infrastructure that bring people into direct contact with their community and its interests — they got rich in financial markets, making money for the sake of it.
.. But the real shrinking of the role of government has been in Trump’s choice of cabinet members, whose aim seems to be to assail the policy goals of their departments.
- secretary of energy is someone who once campaigned to get rid of the Energy Department; the
- Secretary of Education has advocated against the public schools system; the
- Environmental Protection Agency director has a record of repeatedly suing the EPA; and the
- Attorney General has a reputation for opposing the expansion of civil rights.
Other departments are reportedly withering from neglect, as key positions are filled by unqualified people or not filled at all.
.. his daughter Rebekah was part of the transition team that helped Trump choose his cabinet.
.. Was it all worth it?
“It’s like, was having surgery worth it?” Magerman says. “I mean, it was necessary. There was a disease that I thought, like, maybe I had a scintilla of a cure for.”
.. Not only did Trump put out a lengthy statement on Thursday bashing Steve Bannon, his former senior adviser, for coöperating with Wolff on his “phoney” book, his lawyers sent a letter to the publisher, Henry Holt, demanding that it halt publication. From that moment on, every self-respecting Trump hater in the country simply had to buy a copy.
.. a separate denunciation of Bannon from his longtime financial sponsor, the hedge-fund heiress Rebekah Mercer, who is a part-owner of Breitbart, the scrappy Web site that Bannon turned into a platform for Trump and the alt-right. “My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements,” Mercer said
.. “Bannon is resisting. He’s quite like Trump in this respect: he views any apology or admission of error as a sign of weakness.”
.. Trump thought the Mercers were as odd as everybody else thought. He didn’t like Bob Mercer looking at him and not saying a word; he didn’t like being in the same room as Mercer or his daughter. These were super-strange bedfellows—‘wackos’ in his description.”
.. not the demise of his ambitions to transform the G.O.P. into a nationalist/protectionist party modelled on the European right but the opening of a new front. Freed from the constraints of being inside the Administration, Bannon would be able to recruit candidates, raise money, and take down members of the Republican establishment.
.. Trump, in Bannon’s view, was a chapter, or even a detour, in the Trump revolution, which had always been about weaknesses in the two major parties
.. Trump was just the beginning.”