For this week's cover story, Bloomberg Businessweek
was granted remarkable–and exclusive–access inside Donald Trump's digital nerve center, which is run by San Antonio web designer Brad Parscale, one half of the local digital marketing firm Giles-Parscale
Parscale, a political newbie who won Trump's love after building some web pages for the family's businesses and charities over the past several years, reportedly started working on the Trump-for-president team even before Mr. Orange officially announced his run. This summer, Parscale emerged as the Trump campaign's digital director–a feat that in and of itself seems notable when you consider how many top campaign personnel Trump jettisoned from his team during his rise to the GOP presidential nomination.
busts wide open the black box that has been the Trump campaign's digital strategy. Here are a few takeaways from the magazine's fascinating peek inside Trump's digital team–and a hometown boy's role within it:
To the Trumps, Parscale Is "Like Family"
One reason for Trump’s affinity for Parscale? Apparently, he's pretty cheap.
In fact, it seems Parscale owes much of his current success within the Trump machine to him low-balling bids to build Trump-affiliated websites. It started with a random solicitation Parscale received by Trump International Realty in 2010, and soon enough Parscale was building sites for the Trump Winery and the Eric Trump Foundation. Bloomberg reports
that when Trump launched a presidential exploratory committee, he tapped Parscale because he could build him a website on the cheap–just $1,500.
And even though the Trump campaign has run a massive amount of cash through Parscale's San Antonio firm (about $50 million at last count), Bloomberg
implies that he's kept quite little of it for himself, passing most of that money onto online ad networks at very little markup. In fact, he was so cheap that the campaign worried it might have to count Parscale's work as an in-kind contribution.
And that's all because, as Parscale told Bloomberg
, "I was willing to do it like family."
Trump doesn't want a lot of you to vote
Bloomberg quotes a senior (and anonymous) official within Trump's digital team saying the campaign has no less than "three major voter suppression operations underway," aimed at white liberals, young women and African American voters.
Parscale told Bloomberg
that part of dissuading voters from showing up to the polls includes bombarding Facebook with so-called "dark posts," or non-public posts whose viewership the campaign controls so that, in Parscale's words, "only the people we want to see it, see it." That includes, according to Bloomberg, a South Park-style animation of Hilary Clinton delivering her infamous 1996 "super predator" remarks, targeted messaging around Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood to drum up discontent around the Clinton Foundation's controversial record in Haiti, and giving Bill Clinton accusers a megaphone.
notes, the strategy could very well backfire and undermine GOP efforts to draw in those very same voting blocks.
Trump knows he's losing
Despite Trump's poll-bashing rhetoric, there's a lot polling happening inside the Trump campaign, according to Bloomberg
, including $100,000 spent every week on surveys and detailed, daily simulations of the election. It all apparently echoes what we already know from other public polling: Trump will almost certainly not win this thing.
But that doesn't mean Trump plans on letting the ambitious digital operation Parscale built for him go to waste. Using a database the team built, dubbed "Project Alamo," and other data siphoned from the Republican National Committee and the London-based Cambridge Analytica (which just so happened to push for "Brexit"), Bloomberg
reports that Trump's digital team is spending some $70 million to "cultivate a universe of millions of fervent Trump supporters, many of them reached through Facebook."
And since Trump built the whole apparatus with his own campaign funds, he owns it all. Which means, even if he tanks at the polls in two weeks, he could turn around and sell the data to other campaigns, use it to foment a larger fringe political movement, or even make "Project Alamo" the basis for a new Right-Wing media empire – you know, like Trump TV
“We knew how valuable this would be from the outset,” Parscale told Bloomberg
. “We own the future of the Republican Party.”