Billionaire Trump backer’s data firm under investigation for Russia connections

Cambridge Analytica, a “election management agency” partly owned by conservative hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, may have provided information to help target Russian propaganda for disrupting the 2016 elections. According to a story in The Daily Beast, Mercer’s data-crunching firm has become a focus for investigations into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A data firm backed by some of Donald Trump’s closest allies is now facing scrutiny as part of an investigation into possible collusion between the president’s team and Russian operatives, The Daily Beast has learned.

When it comes to Russian interference in the US elections, Facebook, Twitter, and Google handily provided outlets for Russian propaganda. Targeted ads moved straight to screens in swing districts with content designed to break America open along racial lines and images or themes carefully tailored to appeal to individual voters. For the cost of a single television ad, Russia appears to have delivered

of racially charged ads designed to boost Trump’s chances right into the inbox, ad section, and Facebook page of millions of white voters.

Social media provided not just the delivery mechanism, as well as tools for helping to target voters most likely to be either persuaded to Trump, or discouraged from voting. But the detailed data that drove the design of the Russian campaigns—information that included personal information on individual voters—may have come from elsewhere, such as a firm whose specialty is providing exactly this information. And the ties between Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign go beyond just Mercer:

Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, had holdings in Cambridge Analytica worth between $1 million and $5 million as recently as April of this year, Bloomberg reported. Bannon, now back as the chairman of the pro-Trump media outlet Breitbart, hasn’t been publicly mentioned as a potential witness for or target of Russia investigators. He previously sat on the board of Cambridge Analytica.

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