According to a Friday Associated Press report, President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign is working with a firm run by former employees of Cambridge Analytica, the data consulting company brought down earlier this year after its improper use of Facebook data was uncovered.
The AP reported that the new company, Data Propria, employs at least four former Cambridge Analytica employees and is headed by Matt Oczkowski, the former head of product at the now-defunct British firm.
The AP learned of Data Propria’s role in Trump’s re-election effort as a result of conversations held with political contacts and prospective clients in recent weeks by Oczkowski. In one such conversation, which took place in a public place and was overheard by two AP reporters, Oczkowski said he and 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 that Trump-related 2020 work already had begun at the firm along the lines of Cambridge Analytica’s 2016 work.
Oczkowski first denied the firm was targeting political work, but when told the AP heard him discussing campaign work, Oczkowski admitted the company had changed course.
“I’m obviously open to any work that would become available,” Oczkowski said, noting that he and Parscale had worked together closely during Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Oczkowski has insisted his firm is not involved in the type of "psychography" used by Cambridge Analytica, involving the generation of psychological profiles of voters.
Oczkowski told the AP that three of the people on Data Propria’s 10-person team are Cambridge Analytica alumni, but said they were focused on campaign operations and data analysis — not behavioral psychology.
Data Propria is “not going down the psychometrics side of things,” he said.
The fledgling firm is also connected to Parscale in that he is part owner of the firm’s parent company, Cloud Commerce, which bought his digital marketing business last year.
Over the last year, Cloud Commerce has largely rebuilt itself around Parscale’s former company, now rebranded Parscale Digital. Parscale sits on Cloud Commerce’s board of directors and provides the company with the majority of its $2.9 million in revenue, according to the company’s most recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
By working with a Cloud Commerce subsidiary, the Trump campaign could be helping Parscale profit beyond his $15,000 monthly campaign retainer and the commissions he has been collecting on Trump’s digital advertising spending.
Cloud Commerce itself has a history of less-than-honorable leadership:
An AP investigation of Cloud Commerce in March found that a former CEO of its predecessor firm pleaded guilty to stock fraud in 2008 and 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 company’s current CEO, Andrew Van Noy, appears to have misled investors, telling them he worked for Morgan Stanley in the years prior to his arrival at Cloud Commerce.
Van Noy’s August 2010 Utah bankruptcy filing conflicts with that portrayal, showing he spent most of the prior two and a half years unemployed. The filings also reveal that Van Noy had been accused of selling unlicensed securities and 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 that 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.