Donald Trump was going to “drain the swamp”. Remember that?
As it turns out, “draining the swamp” meant building a cabinet chock-full of millionaires and billionaires including multiple Goldmanites and one Wilbur Ross who maybe does/maybe doesn’t engage in a little “harmless” insider trading every now and again.
The other thing “draining the swamp” apparently involved was selling access to the Oval Office. You might recall that multiple large corporations paid former Trump attorney Michael Cohen millions of dollars for “insight” into the administration’s thinking on important issues. If that’s not influence peddling, then I’m not sure what is.
Well now, consultants close to the President are busy selling a database that includes the email addresses and cellphone numbers of some 20 million Trump supporters to candidates, conservative groups and, worryingly, businesses.
“In recent weeks, Trump’s campaign, which is not known for its adherence to political norms, quietly signed a contract with a newly formed Virginia-based company called Excelsior Strategies to market emails and cellphone numbers”, the New York Times reports on Saturday, adding that “Excelsior is offering the chance to email Mr. Trump’s supporters at a rate of $35 per 1,000 addresses or more if the renter also wants to push posts into the Facebook timelines of supporters.”
That’s according to what the Times says are “interviews and marketing emails” the paper obtained and reviewed.
Let that sink in: Mr. “I’m going to drain the swamp” is now all set to sell supporters’ emails and cellphone numbers and, if the “renter” is willing to pay up, access to those voters’ Facebook timelines.
Oh, and it gets better. Excelsior is also looking at the possibility of allowing special interest groups to actually send you text messages based on the phone numbers the President has collected. And yes, I’m serious.
Predictably, this is the brainchild of Brad Parscale, who told the Times the following about the plan:
Giving other candidates and groups access to that data through a legal means to rent it was one of the best things I could do for the Republican ecosystem. And the campaign makes a little money, too. It’s a win-win.
Yes, it’s a “win-win”. In less of course you’re not particularly enamored with the idea of Donald Trump selling your phone number to the highest bidder who might just start sending you random text messages. But who wouldn’t like that, right?
Is this unusual? In a word: No. But it is unusual for an incumbent president. “It is not unusual for candidates to rent supporter data to — or from — other campaigns”, the Times writes, before noting that “the new effort by Trump’s team, however, appears to be the first time the campaign of a sitting president facing re-election has opted to market its list.”
This is compliant with federal election laws, assuming the prices paid by the “renters” are “fair market value”. God knows Trump would never countenance price gouging when it comes to selling the most valuable set of political data on the planet, so you can be absolutely sure Parscale is going to charge the bare minimum.
I’m just kidding.
When it comes to pricing access to this treasure trove, Trump’s campaign will likely try to “grab ’em by the”… well … you know.
So who’s “rented” this information so far? Well, according to the Times, Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Missouri’s Josh Hawley, nonprofits pushing for the Kavanuagh confirmation and, amusingly, “an author promoting a pro-Trump book.”
You’ve got to love that last part. The Trump campaign is now selling the email addresses and cellphone numbers of Trump supporters to someone who wrote a book about Trump.
How much of the rental revenue goes to the Trump campaign itself? 85%, according to the Times. One can’t help but wonder if some of that money is being channeled to lawyer fees to defend Trump and his son in the Russia probe.
In any event, just know that if you’re a Trump supporter, the campaign is now selling your email address and cellphone number to the highest bidder, because that, apparently, is what “draining the swamp” is all about.