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This is a story about how the GOP built a digital machine to bombard their low-information flock with constant reminders to BE AFRAID and HATE YOUR NEIGHBORS and SEND MONEY. This is a story about how Trump's campaign manager, Brad "Neck Pubes" Parscale, converted that machine into an ATM for all his cronies in Trumpland. This is a complicated story with a lot of moving parts, which is NO FUN and also QUITCHER BITCHIN' AND LEARN A THING!

As the New York Times reports, before the entire Republican Party was subsumed into the orange Trump blob, different organs of the GOP used different data platforms to identify and corral their voters. The RNC favored DataTrust, while Republican senators preferred a Koch Brothers-backed entity called i360. Back in 2016, when no one thought Donald Trump was actually going to get elected (how young we were!), the Republican senators still had enough clout to stick with their own platform, instead of jumping to DataTrust, which they suspected of entering into hinky deals for the enrichment of Parscale and his pals. ALLEGEDLY.


But in the two years after Trump's election, things changed drastically. The center of the party shifted toward Trump and his retinue, of course. But also the Blue Team got their shit together and started organizing hard for 2018.

While the GOP was able to hoover up unlimited PAC cash from rich assholes, they didn't have an analog to ActBlue, the Democrats' main small-dollar fundraising apparatus. If you donated to a Democrat last cycle, you probably did it on your phone through ActBlue in just a few clicks. And if you came back to donate to another candidate, the site remembered you and the process was even more seamless.

For the 2018 cycle, ActBlue raised $1.6 billion in individual donations, including $45 million for Beto O'Rourke's campaign to unseat Ted Cruz, which freaked the shit out of the GOP.

Republicans had fund-raising tools, but by coalescing around a single vendor like ActBlue, candidates could raise money jointly and more easily share data on contributors. There were several contenders. But to Mr. Kushner and Mr. Parscale, who by then was the 2020 campaign manager, only one vendor was acceptable, according to several people with knowledge of the deliberations: a company called Revv which had already been processing payments for the campaign.

So Kushner and Parscale grafted Revv and DataTrust together, and thus, WinRed was born.

WinRed is exactly like ActBlue, if ActBlue's mandate included making sure that everyone in the candidate's entourage got paid off the books. And while WinRed may only have netted $100 million in its first six months, compared to ActBlue's $1 billion in 2019, it joins a pantheon of companies which provide lucrative contracts to Parscale and his crew.

The Parscale-led group — including Katie Walsh Shields and her husband, Mike Shields, both former R.N.C. chiefs of staff; and the party's former digital director, Gerrit Lansing — has also presided over the creation of a number of other political tools, from the president's affiliated super PACs to a forthcoming party-controlled news app intended to produce cheerleading content.

Mr. Parscale declined to comment in detail for this article. But he and his associates have said that private companies give them greater operational flexibility, given the constraints of campaign-finance laws. (ActBlue, by contrast, is a nonprofit. Both entities, though, are required to disclose individual donors.) Still, the millions moving through opaque private businesses have left even the president perpetually concerned that Mr. Parscale and his team are making too much money, according to campaign and White House staff members.

"Greater operational flexibility." Uh huh.

Leaving aside the sacks of cash Trump's PAC is throwing at Parscale's firm Red State Data and Digital, Parscale Strategies has billed the Trump campaign and RNC at least $35 million since 2017. Although, in fairness, the company also seems to function as a clearinghouse for payments to other Trumpland figures, including Eric Trump's wife, Lara Trump, and Don Jr.'s ladyfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle.

During a campaign appearance last summer in Orlando, Ms. Guilfoyle confronted Mr. Parscale: Why were her checks always late? Two people who witnessed the encounter said a contrite Mr. Parscale promised that the problem would be sorted out promptly by his wife, Candice Parscale, who handles the books on many of his ventures.

Gotta keep that shit in the family!

To conform to "Mr. Trump's directive, relayed through Ms. McDaniel, that he make no more than $700,000 or $800,000 for his campaign work," Parscale seems to have parked some of the business with other subcontractors. For instance, Parscale's buddy Gary Coby is billing the RNC $200,000 to $300,000 per month through a company called Opn Sesame which texts voters directly, the way MoveOn does for Democrats. And Katie Walsh-Shields's firm has a deal for "a $25,000-a-month R.N.C. retainer and 1 to 5 percent of money it raises for the party's 2020 convention." So there's quite a lot of cash sloshing around this campaign.

On the one hand, these guys are fucking terrifying, particularly in light of our side's failure to similarly lock down our voters.

The digital operation overseen by Mr. Coby and Mr. Parscale has been developing a series of new products, including a news app for volunteers to dole out Trump-friendly content, republish Trump-world tweets and raffle MAGA hats. An arm of the campaign has also hired a company called Phunware, which specializes in tracking cellphone locations; a senior campaign official said the company was hired to develop an app, not track people.

On the other hand, they're hilariously shady.

Last fall, Mr. Pence's office scheduled his first visit to the headquarters, to get a firsthand look. But when the day came, Mr. Parscale canceled, even though the visit was already on the vice president's official schedule. Mr. Parscale, who spends much of his time working from his Florida home — though he recently said he would relocate to Washington — told Mr. Pence's office that the campaign's landlord had vetoed the idea, fearing a vice-presidential visit would disrupt other tenants. Mr. Pence was puzzled not to learn sooner, and the visit has not been rescheduled, two officials with knowledge of the episode said.

Buckle down, kids. These assholes are about to put up one hell of a dirty fight!

[NYT]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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