A San Antonio web design firm has grown into the single biggest vendor to the campaign of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, elevating one of its partners to the forefront of national politics and drawing attention to the Alamo City's burgeoning technology scene.
At the heart of the operation is Brad Parscale, a veteran digital guru who has been working on behalf of the Trump brand long before the billionaire was a presidential candidate. As Trump's digital director, Parscale is now responsible for virtually every aspect of Trump's efforts to connect with supporters online and through other electronic avenues.
Like many Trump associates, Parscale exhibits a fierce loyalty to the billionaire who took a chance on him.
"Mr. Trump has given me every opportunity in the world, and I would do anything I could to help him win," Parscale said. "There is no rock I wouldn’t turn over and no time I wouldn’t put in to help him win."
His firm, Giles-Parscale, caught the attention of the political world Saturday, when the Trump campaign disclosed to the Federal Election Commission that it paid the firm $8.4 million in July, or 45 percent of its total spending for the month. By comparison, that figure was only 21 percent in the month prior.
The $8.4 million sum instantly set off speculation that Giles-Parscale was somehow getting rich off the campaign, but in an interview Monday, Parscale insisted only a fraction ended up with the firm. More than 90 percent, he said, went toward digital advertising.
Parscale and his firm have taken on growing clout in the campaign, providing perhaps its sturdiest connection to Texas and the state's second-largest city. That's where Parscale had already built a profile as a civic-minded advocate, pushing for years to transform the city into a center of brainpower.
"When I think of Brad, I think of a person who chose to be in San Antonio," said David Heard, co-founder of Tech Bloc, a group of San Antonio technology companies. "He’s not here because he was just born here and stayed. I think it’s a powerful thing when you have someone who has that kind of capability and talent and looks around and says" he wants to make the city better.
Of course, Parscale has his most polarizing client yet in Trump, a relationship that does not sit well with some in the San Antonio technology community. Asked by email what it is like to work with Parscale and his firm, one person involved in the community provided a one-sentence response: "I am Anti-Trump so no comment on anyone that would work for him for money."
Other say they assess the firm and client separately and are happy to see Parscale put San Antonio on the map while growing his business and creating jobs.
"I admire his talent — none of that is to say I don't support or support his politics," Heard said. "I don't marshall or filter my take on him and his company based on his political clientele."
A Kansas native, Parscale graduated from Trinity University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in business finance, international business and economics. He went on to start his own firm, Parscale Media, which merged in 2011 with Giles Design to become the company it is today.
Parscale has worked for the Trumps since 2011, starting with some contracts in real estate. He became known to members of the family, including Trump’s son Eric, who stopped by the firm while visiting San Antonio in 2013 for a charity event.
“Giles-Parscale is a true class act in every regard and one of the best in the business,” Eric Trump said in a statement later distributed by the firm.
By the time Trump was ready to launch his campaign, Parscale was a logical choice to have a role on the digital side. He created the website for Trump's exploratory website and has been involved in the presidential effort ever since.
Giles-Parscale has come to handle all things digital for the campaign, acting as the main vendor in place to hire contractors, buy advertising and offer services ranging from small-dollar fundraising to get-out-the-vote efforts. "I provide the entire spectrum of digital services," Parscale said.
At times, Trump has come across as dismissive of the complex data efforts that power modern presidential campaigns, telling the Associated Press earlier this year that he has always "felt it was overrated." Parscale countered the idea that Trump is anything less than dedicated to his firm's mission.
"Mr. Trump’s always had a commitment to our digital operation and seeing it to be successful," Parscale said.
The campaign officially named Parscale digital director as part of a staff expansion in June. Trump said in a statement at the time that Parscale was joining a "team of great people that will ensure we win in November."
Since then, Parscale has emerged as an increasingly influential voice in a campaign that has been dogged by internal turmoil and has gone through multiple changes in leadership. Parscale is reportedly close to Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a valued adviser in the nominee's orbit.
Parscale has also seen his firm grow throughout the presidential race, going from 50-60 employees to well over double that. Even before it began working for the Trump campaign, Giles-Parscale was considered one of the fastest-growing companies in San Antonio — and Parscale a key player in the city's technology community.
As one of the founders of Tech Bloc, Parscale has helped lead the movement to turn San Antonio into a city as known for its technology industry as, for example, Austin. His involvement in Tech Bloc and other efforts to bolster the city's technology industry earned him the title of 2015 San Antonian of the Year from local radio station WOAI, which called him the "public face of the city's breathtaking Tech Evolution of 2015."
While the Trump campaign is Parscale's first foray into national politics, he has had some experience with the ins and outs of municipal government. He was a leading figure in the push to bring ride-sharing service Uber back to San Antonio last year, just six months after it left in protest of newly passed regulations.
Announcing its re-launch to San Antonio, Uber issued a news release calling Parscale "one of Uber's great champions" and attached a photo of him catching its first ride back in the city. In an accompanying statement, Parscale said Uber's return "sends a loud signal that this city is open for business."
More recently, Parscale has added his voice to efforts to make parking easier in downtown San Antonio. According to the San Antonio Business Journal, he has pitched city officials on a smartphone app that would let drivers leave their cars in city-owned parking lots, change locations and have de facto valets bring them their car with the tap of a button.
The project may, however, have to wait until after November.
Disclosure: Uber has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2016/08/25/san-antonio-firm-has-growing-role-trump-campaign/.