Congressional candidate Art Robinson paid Cambridge Analytica $20,000 in 2014 to collect data on how to hone his campaign message to potential voters, according to federal election records. He was one of the first American politicians to use the service.

Cambridge Analytica has provided data analysis services to a number of Republican candidates since, and has recently been in the news for acquiring and analyzing data on Facebook customers, then using that information to benefit President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Robinson, a Cave Junction chemist, is making his fifth challenge this year for the seat held by longtime U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield. In 2014, during his third run for the seat, the Robinson campaign made three payments to Cambridge Analytica for “campaign consulting,” according to Federal Election Commission records. The DeFazio campaign on Wednesday sent out a campaign message revealing the payments.

In an interview Wednesday, Robinson acknowledged that his campaign paid the company to collect data about voters.

“I don’t feel any qualms about what we did, because it was perfectly above-board,” he said.

At the time, Oregon was one of four states Cambridge Analytica, a British company, chose to experiment in when it first began analyzing data for individual politicians’ campaigns in America, Robinson said. He asserted that Democrats were well ahead of Republicans in data analysis of voters in 2014. Because the Republicans hadn’t yet caught up, Robinson decided to use Cambridge Analytica’s service.

The company’s analysis gave him information on who he should mail to and what message he should send. Although he didn’t change his political views, the company’s analysis helped him pick three to five topics out of a possible 20. Robinson said he doesn’t recall which topics were selected based on Cambridge’s advice.

He said he believes at the time Cambridge was not collecting data from social media to benefit his campaign. Instead, he said, it used focus groups and questionnaires to make recommendations about which issues Robinson should focus on when his campaign reached out to voters.

At the time, the company’s work wasn’t controversial, Robinson said. Now, people are learning more about it.

“The public, of course, is seeing something they may not have realized has always been there, these big data systems,” Robinson said.

Cambridge was formed out of an older British company called the Strategic Communication Laboratories Group in 2013, with the purpose of mining Facebook data. Cambridge was created by Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon and donor Robert Mercer, who has made political contributions to Robinson. In 2014, researchers used a personality survey to collect private information from Facebook users for Cambridge. Facebook has said the sale of its user data to Cambridge violated its policy.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4213 or by email at ccegavske@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

(8) comments

Mogie

"Obama’s campaign built a database of every American voter using the same Facebook developer tool used by Cambridge, known as the social graph API, according to the Washington Post. This technology allowed the Obama campaign to access information of voters to figure out “which people would be most likely to influence other people in their network to vote,” according to the paper." Obama also used CA but it was okay then but bad now? Seems like a double standard.

NJ

Moagie it all depends on where you're reading. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/obama-campaign-use-tactics-cambridge-analytica/ -- https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/03/21/no-obama-didnt-employ-the-same-strategies-as-cambridge-analytica/ - the difference is that CA harvested private information from FB without users' consent in a way that went above just their target. They did it by also harvesting all the user's FB friends' information too. It was underhanded to say the least. To say the most, it was illegal and a complete violation of FB policy to protect users privacy.

Handy Barker

Did Mr. Obama provide help to Russian FSB and GRU spies to target Russian anti-American propaganda to specific voters in swing states as Mr. Trump's campaign did under the tutelage of Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort? If Mr. Obama did illegal Conspiratorial analysis, I'm sure we would've heard about it before now. In the mean time, I'll be careful not to vote for him. However, Cambridge Analytica just folded itself up. Because, for Mr. Trump's campaign, with the help of Russian hackers and members of Mr. Trump's staff, they broke federal statutes as traitors to rig an American election. And will go to prison for it.

st paddy

i wonder if they could analyze how to make robinson go away

CitizenJoe

If Art Robinson can't remember the "three to five topics" of his unwavering political beliefs, maybe it's time for him to retire from his quixotic endeavors. The Mercers and Cambridge Analytica are very bad for America, but good for Russia. Art has apparently chosen sides here.

ralpho

"I can't recal which topics CA told me to talk about." Sounds alot like Jeff Sessions' response to Al Franken's relentless questioning regarding collusion with Russia. Satan: The Father of Lies! Where is Al now that our country needs him?

melrosereader

Maybe Rebeckah Mercer and other board members of CA will be tried for treason.

ralpho

When treachery becomes legal, terror is a morally valid response.

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