Mitt Romney's campaign began a secretive data-mining project this summer to trove through Americans' personal information — including their purchasing history and church attendance — to identify new and likely wealthy donors, The Associated Press has learned.
The project employs strategies similar to those the business world uses to influence the way Americans shop and think. Now they're being used to sway presidential elections. The same personal data consumers give away — often unwittingly when they swipe their credit cards or log into Facebook — is now being used by the people who might one day occupy the White House.
For Romney's data-mining project, which began as early as June, the Republican candidate quietly turned to a little-known but successful analytics firm that previously performed marketing work for a colleague tied to Bain & Co., the management-consulting firm that Romney once led....
There are no records of payments to Buxton from Romney's campaign, the Republican National Committee or a joint fundraising committee. Under federal law, companies cannot use corporate treasury funds or resources, such as proprietary data analysis, for in-kind contributions to federal campaigns. The effort by Romney appears to be the first example of a political campaign using such extensive data analysis.