After firing CGI, no-bid contract for Obamacare site goes to firm whose former top researcher developed Obama campaign voter tracking

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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The Obama administration gave the latest no-bid Obamacare website contract to a company whose former top analytic researcher developed the complex voter-tracking computer strategies that led Obama to victory in 2012.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of Kathleen Sebelius’ Department of Health and Human Services, recently fired Obamacare website contractor CGI Federal after the botched website rollout that began in October — though CGI Federal still holds five major tech contracts with CMS that are valid for at least another year.

CMS replaced CGI Federal — which employs Michelle Obama’s Princeton classmate and White House Christmas dinner guest Toni Townes-Whitley as a top executive — with another firm that has close links to Obama-world.

The Chicago-based consulting firm Accenture received a $90 million noncompetitive contract to become the Obamacare website’s new primary contractor. The no-bid deal puts the company that employed the man who developed the Obama campaign’s personality-tracking programs in charge of a website that possesses massive amounts of personal information despite severe security risks.

Rayid Ghani, chief scientist of the Obama for America data analytics team, came to the Obama campaign in 2011 after a long stint directing the analytics research group at Accenture Technology Labs, where he engineered new ways for companies to track consumers’ personal preferences.

While at Accenture, Ghani “specialized in building algorithms from various data sets—like consumer shopping habits—to help businesses improve their bottom lines,” according to a brief October 2012 profile in Mother Jones on the Obama re-election team’s “digital gurus.” He figured out shoppers’ habits to a fine degree of detail, determining whether they’re inclined to bargain-shop or to engage in “pantry-loading.”

“In one of his more recent projects, Ghani developed a model to estimate, with 96 percent accuracy, the end price of an eBay auction—information that could then be used to sell price insurance to queasy users worried about coming up short,” Mother Jones reported. “At OFA, his skills have been put to use on Project Dreamcatcher, which uses text analytics to gauge voter sentiment.”

The Obama re-election team’s powerful voter database  helped “alter the very nature of the electorate” in 2012, according to The New York Times, “making it younger and less white.”

Kathleen Sebelius has failed to provide a “privacy and security plan” to prevent fraud and abuse of the Obamacare website, according to Republican Rep. Diane Black.

The man formerly known as “The World’s Most Wanted Hacker” told Congress that the HealthCare.gov Obamacare enrollment website clearly “did not consider security as a priority” and that “It would be a hacker’s wet dream to break into healthcare.gov.”

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Correction: Rayid Ghani was hired by the Obama campaign after his work with Accenture.