Newly appointed National Security Advisor John Bolton paid Cambridge Analytica to convince Facebook users to support another world war.
Information has recently come to light that Bolton’s superpac was concerned with the growing anti-war sentiment in America, and wanted to construct a propaganda campaign aimed at reversing these peacenik views.
“The Bolton PAC was obsessed with how America was becoming limp wristed and spineless and it wanted research and messaging for national security issues,” said Wylie, a data expert who was a key figure in the founding of Cambridge Analytica. “That really meant making people more militaristic in their worldview. That’s what they said they wanted, anyway.”
Bolton’s PAC hired Cambridge Analytica months after it was founded in 2014, and the firm’s work with Bolton’s group became an example that it used to pitch potential clients about the value of its data harvesting model.
Using the psychographic models, Cambridge helped design concepts for advertisements for candidates supported by Mr. Bolton’s PAC, including the 2014 campaign of Thom Tillis, the Republican senator from North Carolina, according to Mr. Wylie and another former employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being dragged into the investigations that now appear to be engulfing Cambridge.
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, whose patriarch, Robert L. Mercer, made a fortune at the helm of a top-yielding hedge fund.
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, according to Federal Election Commission filings. The Mercers also backed Mr. Trump in the presidential election.
The Mercer family has not publicly commented since the reports about the misuse of Facebook data by Cambridge first surfaced in The Times and The Observer.
The reports have prompted calls from lawmakers in Britain and the United States for renewed scrutiny of Facebook, and at least two American state prosecutors have said they are looking into the misuse of data by Cambridge Analytica.
The company also suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after a television broadcast this week in which he was recorded suggesting that the company had used seduction and bribery to entrap politicians and influence foreign elections.
But it is the harvesting of Facebook data that has cast the harshest spotlight on Cambridge, and Mr. Bolton’s experience with the company appears to have provided a model for how it sold itself to future political campaigns, including Mr. Trump’s.
The firm took the psychographic profiles it was building off the Facebook data at the time and combined them with voter databases and other sets of data. Staff from SCL’s elections division, which through a convoluted corporate structure was interchangeable with Cambridge, discussed what they were doing at a meeting in July 2014 with another contractor for the Bolton PAC, according to an agenda of the meeting obtained by The Times.
The profiles would be used to “identify the personality traits of individuals” in states to be targeted by the Bolton PAC, said the agenda, which was prepared for SCL and Cambridge staff. “Individuals can be targeted with the right message,” it said.
The agenda also included a line, in boldfaced text, that said SCL wanted to use voter contact lists available to Bolton’s campaign to direct people “toward the FB app.” Cambridge, working through an outside researcher, used a Facebook app to harvest data from the social network’s profiles. The app claimed to be collecting data for academic research, and users were not aware of its true purpose.
Months later, the relationship between Cambridge and the Bolton PAC had grown so close that the firm was writing up talking points for Mr. Bolton. In an email dated Oct. 1, 2014, Cambridge staff outlined a few sentences that Mr. Bolton could use to describe the work the new firm was doing for his super PAC.
“It’s not just about how much you spend. It’s also about how smart you spend,” the email advised Mr. Bolton to say.
“One way we’re doing that is by enlisting an outside firm” — Cambridge Analytica — “to provide deepdive research into who makes up our audience of target voters,” it continued. “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 subject line of the email: “Did Bannon come back to you on this?”