Here’s the big secret about data firm Cambridge Analytica that nobody is telling you

DCNFPeter Hasson, DCNF

Republican data firm Cambridge Analytica has come under intense public scrutiny for using deceptively gathered Facebook information to target voters in political campaigns.

Boastful Cambridge executives encouraged some media outlets to play up the firm’s influence in the 2016 election.

But the truth is Cambridge is known in Republican circles for over-promising and under-delivering on their promises to political campaigns.

One GOP consultant, who has worked with Cambridge, described the firm as “overrated” to TheDCNF.

“Overrated” is too generous: “when you order a steak but receive a chicken sandwich, you don’t describe the restaurant as overrated. You call it deceptive,” another operative who has collaborated with Cambridge said.

A third operative described Cambridge as average but not an electoral difference maker. Other sources speaking on background confirmed Cambridge has a mediocre reputation in GOP circles.

Cambridge did not return a request for comment.

The Wall Street Journal reported November 2017 Cambridge had yet to pick up any national clients in the 2017-18 political cycle. The Daily Caller News Foundation reviewed FEC records showing that is still the case.

Cambridge’s past includes a list of disappointed clients.

President Donald Trump’s campaign phased out its use of Cambridge’s data and didn’t use it at all during the last month or so before the 2016 election, CBS News reported. The campaign relied on the RNC’s data operation instead.

Cambridge worked on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign before its short run with Trump’s. There, too, Cambridge failed to live up to the hype.

“My own assessment is that Cambridge is a good data firm, but they promised something beyond what others were promising,” former Cruz staffer Rick Tyler told TheDCNF. Tyler is now an MSNBC contributor.

Cambridge was more expensive than similar data firms, Tyler noted.

“You know, everybody’s looking for the ‘secret sauce’ as it were, or the edge, so they sold the edge as psychographic data analysis, which sounded very promising and may indeed one day be; but because we had another data scientist [who] worked for the campaign and didn’t work for Cambridge, we double blind tested their work and it didn’t provide any lift. So what they were doing, there was no evidence that it actually worked,” Tyler added.

The Cruz team stopped using Cambridge early on in the primary campaign, The New York Times reported.

GOP consultant Todd Wilcox used Cambridge for two of his political groups in 2016, only to be disappointed with the results. “I did not see any indication that they can live up to their claim to be able to use data to change audience behavior,” Wilcox told The Wall Street Journal.

Tufts University professor Eitan Hersh, author of “Hacking The Electorate,” slammed Cambridge’s work as overrated following news about their access to Facebook data. “Every claim about psychographics etc. made by or about the firm is BS,” he tweeted.

Hersh has been calling BS on Cambridge for a while now. It’s “basically impossible” to do what Cambridge told its clients it was doing, he told the Chicago Tribune in October 2016.

In a case study on Cambridge’s website, the firm takes credit for turning out 15,478 voters in Republican North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis’s upset of Kay Hagan in the 2014 Senate race. Even taking Cambridge at their word, their work for the Tillis campaign wasn’t enough to swing the election. Tillis’s margin of victorywas almost 50,000 votes.

Follow Hasson on Twitter @PeterJHasson

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