Tony Fabrizio was honored as Pollster of the Year for his work on Trump’s 2016 presidential election.
As chief pollster, he was hired to assist Trump’s team and the RNC on the modeling, polling and targeting of specific voter groups. He worked with Brad Parscale, the campaign’s digital director, to uncover what they would later term the “Trump targets,” voters who were looking for a “new direction” and not necessarily tied to either party.
His firm, Fabrizio, Lee & Associates (FLA), used online testing of different messaging to develop the “strongest messaging to support Trump’s campaign...”
“FLA was able to identify with precision the voters who wanted change but were not supporting Mr. Trump. Knowing their beliefs, what messages most strongly resonated with them, and their media consumption habits, FLA advised the leadership teams in each key state how best to reach this hugely important cohort of voters,” according to a campaign brief posted to its website.
They identified 13.5 million voters in 16 battleground states whom they considered persuadable.
“We knew the 14 million people we needed to win 270. We targeted those in over 1,000 different universes with exactly the things that mattered to them. We didn’t let the media go to them. We went straight to them,” said Parscale.
They also ran three parallel online voter suppression campaigns specifically targeting “idealistic white liberals, young women and African Americans.” It’s likely, it would not have been able to create such specific targets to suppress votes without the data collected by Fabrizio’s firm.
Through Facebook dark posts, Parscale’s team delivered well-tested, inflammatory messaging to the Trump targets. “Only the people we want to see it, see it,” said Parscale. “We know because we’ve modeled this. It will dramatically affect (Clinton’s) ability to turn these people out,” said another Trump official.
Christopher Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica developer, admitted to Congress that Steve Bannon had “directed the political data consultancy to conduct research on suppressing Black voters, among other groups.” He also admitted campaigns and political action committees “had requested Cambridge Analytica’s help with voter suppression more than once.”
Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) appears to have run a similar operation. It was posting comparable divisive messaging on the same media platforms to the same Trump targets during similar time periods.
Paul Manafort worked for Trump’s campaign from March to August 2016. Before joining the campaign, he recruited Fabrizio. That spring, Manafort and Rick Gates, his business partner and Trump deputy campaign manager, are alleged to have shared the campaign’s polling data with Konstantin V. Kilimnik, Manafort’s protegé with ties to Russian intelligence.
Most of the data was already public, “but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign.” Fabrizio was the only pollster working for Trump during most of that time. John McLaughlin, the campaign’s second pollster, was hired in June 2016. McLaughlin and Fabrizio were business partners in a past incarnation of FLA.
Fabrizio claims he had no knowledge of Trump polling data being given to the Russians. It’s not the first time he and Manafort have been associated with Russian officials and elections. Manafort previously employed Fabrizio for Viktor Yanukovych and Ukraine’s Party of Regions campaigns in 2012–2013.
Manafort ran numerous disinformation operations as Yanukovych’s campaign manager. He secretly issued orders to rewrite Wikipedia entries to smear any Yanukovych opponents. He ran multiple social media campaigns aimed at promoting Yanukovych to audiences in Europe and the US.
And he also helped set up the Brussels-based European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, which contracted with U.S. lobbying firms Mercury Public Affairs and the Podesta Group to promote Yanukovych in D.C. while obscuring Manafort’s role. Fabrizio is also a senior counselor at Mercury Public Affairs.
Along with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, the firms are currently being investigated by federal prosecutors for the legal and lobbying work they did in 2012 and 2013 for Manafort and Yanukovych.
Fabrizio earned more than $250,000 from Manafort for polling and surveys done for Yanukovych’s campaign in 2012 and 2013. His firm also billed the Party of Regions at least $2 million in travel and living expenses. After Russia annexed Crimea, Manafort brought Fabrizio back to work for the pro-Russian party Opposition Bloc for the 2014 parliamentary elections
Fabrizio was interviewed by Mueller’s team a year ago and reportedly asked about the polling work he’d done for Manafort in Ukraine. He was also questioned about how that polling data had been shared with Russians Konstantin Kilimnik, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov. He was included in various email chains with Manafort and Kilimnik.
His list of clients includes a number of politicians with ties to Russia. Before joining Trump, he was Rand Paul’s pollster on his 2016 presidential campaign. By that time, Paul was already a known friend to Russian officials.
Two years earlier, Paul said that America should avoid punishing Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. In August 2018, Paul privately visited Russian lawmakers and former ambassador—and top Russian spy and spy recruiter—Sergey Kislyak “to renew diplomacy, engagement and communications with Russia.”
Fabrizio was also a pollster and senior advisor to Ron DeSantis on his 2015 Florida Senate campaign. He’d previously worked on former FL Gov. Rick Scott’s two successful governor races and for the GOP on former WI Gov. Scott Walker’s 2014 reelection campaign.
A Walker PAC received $1.1 million in funding from Russian oligarch Len Blavatnik during that campaign. Matt Oczkowski, who worked as Walker’s digital director at the time, later became head of product for Cambridge Analytica.
Fabrizio’s also done strategy and polling work for Rick Perry, Mitch McConnell, the NRA, the RNC, Amway (DeVos family), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and at least five different casino or gaming entities, including Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts.
In 2017, he and Mark Penn, a pollster who has helped elect more than 25 leaders in Asia, Latin America and Europe, spoke at a Harvard University panel discussing polling myths and the 2016 election polls.
Penn, considered to be a Democratic pollster, is “near universally regarded as rough, arrogant, antisocial, controlling, manipulative, brutally ambitious, and occasionally downright abusive — a hurler of cell phones, pagers and Chinese food.”
He’s worked for nearly a half century for clients including Bill and Hillary Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bill Gates. He’s married to Nancy Jacobson who’s the co-founder of No Labels, a “non-partisan” political group that’s run and funded mainly by Republicans.
His former agency, Penn & Schoen, was a client of Trump’s on numerous projects. It did a survey to collect favorable data showing “everyday New Yorkers” supported Trump’s plan for a development on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It also did polling work for Trump when he considered running for president in 1988 and advised Trump Shuttle on a marketing strategy in the 1990s.
Penn criticized Trump leading up to the election but last November wrote an opinion piece for Fox News denouncing Mueller’s Special Counsel because “(its) investigation…has come up truly empty on its central charge related to the president — collusion with the Russian government.” He further defended Manafort by claiming his prosecution was based on “…vengeance on him for failing to give them what they want and to make Trump look bad.”
Aside from being the former Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer for Microsoft, he was also the CEO of Burson-Marsteller, an international advertising agency. He left the agency a few months after its Brussels office was hired by Ukraine’s ruling Party of Regions to work on a smear campaign against former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. This was during the time Fabrizio and Manafort worked on the campaign.
For more than a decade, Burson-Marsteller (now named Burson Cohn & Wolfe) has had a strategic partnership with Mikhailov & Partners, a Moscow-based international PR firm.
“Our team of international communications experts delivers projects across Europe, Asia, and both North and Latin America. We are able to provide maximum global reach by drawing on the services of our partners at Burson-Marsteller, the world’s biggest communications firm,” according to its website.
The Russian agency’s clients include Huawei, FIFA, MTS (Russia’s largest mobile operator), Transoil (one of Russia’s biggest railway transporters of oil and oil products), Kaspersky Lab, Rosatom (an organization that includes Russia’s scientific research organizations, nuclear weapons complex and a nuclear icebreaker fleet) and Russia’s Central Bank.
Burson-Marsteller and Manafort have a long history. In 1991, it acquired Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly (BMS&K), a Washington D.C. public relations and lobbying firm run by Charles R. Black, Manafort, Roger Stone and Peter Kelly. The firm was notorious for representing war criminals, dictators and Republicans. Manafort’s firm was nicknamed the “Torturer’s Lobby” because of how many human rights abusers it represented.
Burson-Marsteller has also done disinformation work for Facebook. In May 2011, it was hired by the company to conduct a PR attack on Google. It contacted a number of media companies and bloggers in an effort to get them to write unflattering stories about Google. The campaign backfired when one of the bloggers went public by posting the emails he received from Burson-Marsteller.
In 2015, Penn founded the Stagwell Group, an investment firm that bought Harris Interactive, a market research agency that runs the Harris Poll, which was started by Louis Harris in 1963. Harris is considered the “nation’s best-known 20th-century pollster” who created the Voter Profile Analysis, “a model of national and state voting patterns by ethnic, religious and economic blocs that he used to predict election results with astonishing success.”
The Harris Poll now partners with the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University to run Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll. The Hill, a Washington D.C.-based media publication, has partnered with the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll to run online polls throughout 2019.
The Hill is owned by Capitol Hill Publishing, which is run by News Communications Inc. James (Jimmy) A. Finkelstein, a personal friend of Trump’s who’s “known him forever,” is its Chairman, CEO & President. He’s also publisher of The Hill. Finkelstein’s father, Jerry Finkelstein, started The Hill in 1994. He was a NY City businessman, publisher and political insider who was a friend and client of Roy Cohn.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is a member of the board for News Communications Inc.
The Hill has a history of publishing articles and opinions pieces that are outside the realm of what’s commonly accepted as fact by the general public.
It hired John Solomon as Executive VP of Digital Video in 2017. He’s since published “investigative” pieces about the Clinton Foundation’s Uranium One Deal. He’s claimed an attorney for women who were allegedly sexually assaulted by Trump, was really just a “money-grubbing opportunist.” He believes that FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page compromised Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation through their leaked texts and it should be shut down.
His stories are picked up by the right-wing media like FOX News, the Drudge Report and Breitbart and then aired in primetime by his friend Sean Hannity to his 3.2 million viewers. Before working at The Hill, Solomon was the COO of Circa, Sinclair Broadcasting’s news and entertainment app.
Penn is also an “opinion contributor” for The Hill. In his opinion piece published last August, he suggested a “deep state conspiracy” was happening at the FBI. He claims neither Mueller or the Senate Committee found collusion so it was time to end the Special Counsel’s investigation.
The Harris Poll is one of hundreds of polling companies Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight grades every year. It gave Harris Interactive a C+. One criteria used to grade the companies is called the Mean-Riverted Bias, which calculates the frequency by which a pollster historically overrates how well a candidate will do.
TCJ Research has an R+4.5, which means it consistently polls with the most extreme numbers favoring the GOP. Survey Monkey is the most extreme for the Democrats with a D+4.9.
Survey Monkey was previously run by Dave Goldberg, Sheryl Sandberg’s husband who died in a treadmill accident. Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, is currently on the board of directors for Survey Monkey. David Ebersman, the former CFO of Facebook, is also on the board.
Survey Monkey partners with Axios to produce political polls and opinion pieces to accompany those polls. They published one in January which found that “74% of Democrats (and people who lean Democrat) would consider voting for Ocasio-Cortez if she were old enough to run for president.”
It was an opinion piece written by Mike Allen, Axios co-founder, who used the poll to support the calling of Ocasio-Cortez as the ‘Darling of the Left…’ who was driving (the federal government’s) policy debate on taxes, Medicare and free tuition.”
Five years ago, as Politico’s Playbook editor, a review of his archives showed he wrote numerous “adoring” articles about various advertisers like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, BP andGoldman Sachs.
His father was conservative writer Gary Allen, a conspiracy theorist who was a spokesman for the John Birch Society (JBS) and a writer for its American Opinion magazine. Fred C. Koch, was one of the 11 co-founding JBS committee members.
In 2015, the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners hosted Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker at a private fundraising event with hundreds of wealthy conservatives. The candidates appeared on-stage for question-and-answer sessions. Allen was the moderator.
He has a history of writing investigative reports about the Kochs as well as puff pieces promoting their billion$ in contributions to “cancer research, medical centers, educational institutions, and arts and cultural institutions.”
He also uses polls produced by McLaughlin & Associates to premise some of his news reporting. McLaughlin & Assoc. received a ‘C-’ from FiveThirtyEight. Fabrizio, Lee & Associates used to be named Fabrizio McLaughlin & Associates, when Fabrizio worked with brothers John and Jim McLaughlin. The brothers eventually started their own polling firm, McLaughlin & Associates.
John McLaughlin, the second pollster hired by Trump’s campaign, was initially introduced to Trump through Dick Morris, a GOP strategist who’s dad, Eugene Morris, used to be Fred Trump’s lawyer. Morris’ first cousin was Roy Cohn and he was the person who introduced Cohn to Donald.
Dick Morris, who worked on President Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign, was the official that hired Penn do do polling work for Clinton. Years later, Penn had a falling out with the HRC campaign and agreed to leave.
There are seven pollsters in FiveThirtyEight’s rankings that were given a grade of ‘F’. They include Research 2000, TCJ Research, Strategic Vision, Pharos Research Group, Overtime Politics, People’s Pundit Daily and CSP Polling.
Research 2000, for example, was hired by Daily Kos to do polling for the 2008 elections. Independent statisticians found the firm was using fraudulent numbers and in 2010, Daily Kos sued Research 2000 for fraud. According to Daily Kos “We were defrauded by Research 2000, and while we don’t know if some or all of the data was fabricated or manipulated beyond recognition, we know we can’t trust it.”
2008 was also the year Kellyanne Conway and her family moved into the Trump Tower. She was a member of the condo board, which is where she said she first met Trump. At the time, she was also running her own polling agency, The Polling Company. In 2013, she conducted private polling for Trump when he was thinking about running for Governor of New York.
Some of her past clients include Jack Kemp, Senator Fred Thompson, former VP Dan Quayle and former Congressman Mike Pence. She worked with Newt Gingrich twice. First, in the 1990s when he was U.S. Speaker of the House and second, during his 2012 presidential campaign.
In 2015, she started working for Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. During that time, Cruz’s campaign paid $750,000 to Cambridge Analytica for “web service/donor modeling” and Carson paid it $220,000 for “data management service” and “web service.” Conway’s a former consultant for Cambridge Analytica.
She joined Trump’s campaign in July 2016. After Manafort resigned, she took his spot and became the first female campaign manager of a Republican presidential campaign. Bannon, then the VP of Cambridge Analytica, joined the campaign as its top advisor a month later.
After Trump’s election, Conway went on numerous mainstream media outlets to subvert facts and spread disinformation.
In February 2017, she referred more than once on national TV to the “Bowling Green Massacre” in Kentucky, as reasoning for the ban on Muslims entering the US. The massacre was made up. Last year, the Office of the Special Counsel said she violated the Hatch Act by stumping for Republican Roy Moore during interviews with Fox News and CNN.
At the same American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) conference where Fabrizio was named Pollster of the Year, Conway was voted Most Valuable Player of the Year. There were some members who disagreed with the selection, pointing out that Conway had lied to the press on numerous occasions which violated the group’s code.
In the end, the AAPC board determined it had found no evidence Conway had lied in a “substantial way” and that without her, Trump wouldn’t have been elected president.