WASHINGTON — A Trump administration political appointee previously worked at Cambridge Analytica, the political data firm that assisted Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and is now being investigated for collecting private information from Facebook.
Kelly Rzendzian, a special assistant to the secretary at the Department of Commerce, worked at SCL Group in Alexandria, Virginia, from March 2016 through February 2017, according to her public financial disclosure report. SCL Group is the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, a firm that harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of millions accounts without their permission as part of its voter targeting efforts.
On her LinkedIn page, Rzendzian describes herself as a senior adviser at SCL Group. Her resume, obtained by the government watchdog American Oversight through a Freedom of Information Act request, says she worked at Cambridge Analytica starting in March 2016.
One of her responsibilities at Cambridge Analytica was to “Collaborate Across Teams to Execute Targeted Engagement and Outreach Strategies, including Oversight of Audience Segmentation and Message Planning for Presidential Campaign,” she wrote in her resume. The Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica starting in June 2016. Before that, the company worked on the Ted Cruz campaign.
Rzendzian’s history with Cambridge Analytica has not previously been reported. She declined to comment on her work with the firm.
SCL Group started as a British political messaging group. Cambridge Analytica is the creation of SCL Group executive Alexander Nix, GOP megadonor Robert Mercer and his political adviser Steve Bannon. Nix was the CEO of Cambridge Analytica until he was suspended in the wake of the Facebook scandal.
In 2016, the Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica to place television advertisements, target digital advertisements and conduct polling in swing states.
Last week, a former Cambridge Analytica employee revealed how the group collected data from more than 50 million Facebook users ― mostly without their consent. Cambridge Analytica wanted the data to help create profiles of voters based on their psychological traits. It is unclear whether Cambridge Analytica used the information it collected from Facebook to help the Trump campaign.
Cambridge Analytica is now under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, congressional committees, and the U.K.’s information and data privacy regulator. Special counsel Robert Mueller asked Cambridge Analytica to turn over emails belonging to employees who worked on the Trump campaign, The Wall Street Journal reported in December.
Rzendzian joined the Commerce Department’s Office of Business Liaison as a special assistant to the secretary in February 2017, shortly after Trump took office.
The department declined to comment about Rzendzian’s job responsibilities or whether there are other former Cambridge Analytica or SCL Group employees who now work at the agency.
Rzendzian lists extensive campaign experience on her resume. She worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid and Mitt Romney’s in 2012, the document says.
Before joining Cambridge Analytica, Rzendzian worked at i360, a company started by a former McCain adviser. The firm later merged with a Koch-funded data nonprofit, Politico reported in 2014. According to Politico, i360 spent over $50 million between 2010 and 2014 to link voter information with consumer data bought from credit bureaus.