The Connecticut Association of Realtors’ political fundraising arm has enlisted a company associated with the former executive of the embattled political data and marketing firm Cambridge Analytica in an attempt to boost Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski ahead of Tuesday’s election.
The Realtors for Connecticut Political Action Committee allegedly made payments of $25,000, $90,000 and $430,000 – the last payment for media buys in support of Stefanowski – to CloudCommerce, three days after it announced it would be supporting Stefanowski for election, according to state election commission filings first obtained by CT Post.
“Connecticut’s real estate industry and its economic success are inextricably linked,” said Michael Barbaro, the president of the association, in a release. “Connecticut needs a leader who can deliver change and we believe Bob Stefanowski is that leader.”
Initially, some of the payments were filed as having been meant for Data Propria, but they were subsequently changed to CloudCommerce, according to CT Post.
Data Propria is a subsidiary of CloudCommerce, with the same Texas address, and the former was founded by Matt Oczkowski, previously the head of product at Cambridge Analytica. It also employs David Wilkinson, Cambridge Analytica’s former data scientist and others, according to Linkedin.
Cambridge Analytica, a political firm hired by President Donald Trump in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, was found to have collected the personal data of approximately 87 million Facebook users under the guise of having them answer a personality quiz. Only around 270,000 actually took the quiz and consented to have their data collected.
The firm then allegedly misused that data to build psychological profiles of Facebook users and their friends for targeting political advertisements supporting Trump and Brexit.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called to appear before Congress during a multi-day hearing about the misuse of data.
Cambridge Analytica folded, then Oczkowski started Data Propria, which, like Cambridge Analytica, focuses on behavioral data science – using that data to target ads and marketing – according to a report about the new company published in Wired.
Barbaro told Inman he couldn’t speak about the decision to hire CloudCommerce because state campaign laws are strict about discussing spending in support of a political candidate.
“Unfortunately I cannot make any comments with regards to anything we’ve done until the election is over,” said Barbaro, who also declined to go into further detail on why the association endorsed Stefanowski.
Barbaro is in his second year as the president of the Connecticut Association of Realtors, after the board of directors changed the association bylaws to let him be president for the second year, he confirmed to Inman.
The most recent poll by Quinnipiac shows the Connecticut governor’s race too close to call on October 30th, with Ned Lamont, a Democrat, on the plus side but within the margin of error.
CloudCommerce did not respond to Inman’s request for information on how the $545,000 was spent, and if Realtors should be concerned about the firm’s ties to Cambridge Analytica.