Trump’s strategist push AI to help conservatives, all you need to know


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Brad Parscale was the digital guru behind Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 election and was promoted to manage the 2020 campaign. But he didn’t last long on that job: His personal life unraveled in public and he later texted a friend that he felt “guilty” for helping Trump win after the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

He’s since become an evangelist about the power of artificial intelligence to transform how Republicans run political campaigns. And his company is working for Trump’s 2024 bid, trying to help the presumptive Republican nominee take back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden.

Here’s what to know about Parscale and his new role:

NEW AI-POWERED CAMPAIGN TOOLS

Parscale says his company, Campaign Nucleus, can use AI to help generate customized emails, parse oceans of data to gauge voter sentiment and find persuadable voters. It can also amplify the social media posts of “anti-woke” influencers, according to an Associated Press review of Parscale’s public statements, his company documents, slide decks, marketing materials and other records not previously made public.

Soon, Parscale says, his company will deploy an app that harnesses AI to assist campaigns in collecting absentee ballots in the same way drivers for DoorDash or Grubhub pick up dinners from restaurants and deliver them to customers.

FROM UNKNOWN TO TRUMP CONFIDANT

Parscale was a relatively unknown web designer in San Antonio, Texas, when he was hired to build a web presence for Trump’s family business.

That led to a job on the future president’s 2016 campaign. He was one of its first hires and spearheaded an unorthodox digital strategy, teaming up with scandal-plagued Cambridge Analytica to help propel Trump to the White House.

“I pretty much used Facebook to get Trump elected in 2016,” Parscale said in a 2022 podcast interview.

Following Trump’s surprise win, Parscale’s influence grew. He was promoted to manage Trump’s reelection bid and enjoyed celebrity status. A towering figure at 6 feet, 8 inches with a Viking-style beard, Parscale was frequently spotted at campaign rallies taking selfies with Trump supporters and signing autographs.

Parscale was replaced as campaign manager not long after a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, drew an unexpectedly small crowd, enraging Trump.

ROLE IN 2024 CAMPAIGN

Since last year, Campaign Nucleus and other Parscale-linked companies have been paid more than $2.2 million by the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and their related political action and fundraising committees, campaign finance records show.

Parscale did not respond to questions from the AP about what he’s doing for the Trump campaign. Trump has called artificial intelligence “so scary” and “dangerous,” while his campaign, which has shied away from highlighting Parscale’s role, said in an emailed statement that it did not “engage or utilize” tools supplied by any AI company.

Parscale-linked companies have been paid to host websites, send emails, provide fundraising software and digital consulting, campaign finance records show.

The Biden campaign and Democrats are also also using AI. So far, they said they are primarily deploying the technology to help them find and motivate voters and to better identify and overcome deceptive content.

TIES TO A WEALTHY GOP DONOR

Last year, Parscale bought property in Midland, Texas, in the heart of the nation’s highest-producing oil and gas fields. It is also the hometown of Tim Dunn, a billionaire born-again evangelical who is among the state’s most influential political donors.

In April of last year, Dunn invested $5 million in a company called AiAdvertising that once bought one of Parscale’s firms under a previous corporate name. The San Antonio-based ad firm also announced that Parscale was joining as a strategic adviser, to be paid $120,000 in stock and a monthly salary of $10,000.

“Boom!” Parscale tweeted. “(AiAdvertising) finally automated the full stake of technologies used in the 2016 election that changed the world.”

AiAdvertising added two key national figures to its board: Texas investor Thomas Hicks Jr. — former co-chair of the RNC and longtime hunting buddy of Donald Trump Jr. — and former GOP congressman Jim Renacci. In January, Dunn gave AiAdvertising an additional $2.5 million via an invesment company, and AiAdvertising said in a news release that the cash infusion would help it “generate more engaging, higher-impact campaigns.”

Dunn declined to comment, and AiAdvertising did not respond to messages seeking comment.

PARSCALE’S VISION

Parscale occasionally offers glimpses of the AI future he envisions. Casting himself as an outsider to the Republican establishment, he has said he sees AI as a way to undercut elite Washington consultants, whom he described as political parasites.

In January, Parscale told a crowd assembled at a grassroots Christian event in a Pasadena, California, church that their movement needed “to have our own AI, from creative large language models and creative imagery, we need to reach our own audiences with our own distribution, our own email systems, our own texting systems, our own ability to place TV ads, and lastly we need to have our own influencers.”

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Burke reported from San Francisco. AP National Political Writer Steve Peoples in Washington and Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

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This story is part of an Associated Press series, “The AI Campaign,” that explores the influence of artificial intelligence in the 2024 election cycle.

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Contact AP’s global investigative team at [email protected] or https://www.ap.org/tips/

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The Associated Press receives financial assistance from the Omidyar Network to support coverage of artificial intelligence and its impact on society. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP’s standards for working with philanthropies, a list of supporters and funded coverage areas at AP.org





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