What to know about Trump strategist's embrace of AI to help conservatives

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

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

Here's what you need to know about Parscale and his new role:

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

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

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 campaign in 2016. He was an early hire and led an unorthodox digital strategy, working 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.

After Trump's surprising victory, Parscale's influence grew. He was promoted to manage Trump's re-election bid and enjoyed celebrity status. Parscale, a towering figure at 6 feet tall with a Viking-style beard, was often seen 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, infuriating Trump.

Since last year, Campaign Nucleus and other Parscale affiliates 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 does for the Trump campaign. Trump has called artificial intelligence “so scary” and “dangerous,” while his campaign, which did not emphasize Parscale's role, said in an emailed statement that tools from any AI company were not used.

Companies linked to Parscale 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 using AI. So far, they say they're mainly using the technology to help find and motivate voters and to better identify and overcome misleading content.

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

In April last year, Dunn invested $5 million in a company called AiAdvertising that once bought one of Parscale's companies under a previous company name. The San Antonio-based advertising agency also announced that Parscale was joining as a strategic advisor, for which he would receive $120,000 in stock and a monthly salary of $10,000.

“Tree!” Parscale tweeted. “(AiAdvertising) has finally automated the full deployment of technologies used in the world-changing 2016 elections.”

AiAdvertising has added two major 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 another $2.5 million through an investment firm, and AiAdvertising said in a press release that the cash infusion would help the company “generate more compelling, higher-impact campaigns.”

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

Parscale occasionally offers glimpses of the AI ​​future he envisions. He profiles himself as an outsider to the Republican establishment and says he sees AI as a way to undermine Washington's elite consultants, whom he described as political parasites.

In January, Parscale told a crowd gathered at a grassroots Christian event at a church in Pasadena, California, that their movement “needs our own AI, from creative big language models and creative images, we need to reach our own audiences with our own AI”. distribution, our own email systems, our own text messaging systems, our own ability to place TV ads, and finally, we need 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,” examining the influence of artificial intelligence in the 2024 election cycle.

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Contact AP's global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org or https://www.ap.org/tips/

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The Associated Press receives funding from the Omidyar Network to support reporting on artificial intelligence and its impact on society. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP's Standards for Working with Charities, a list of supporters, and funded coverage areas at AP.org

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