Nate Silver, the ESPN journalist behind the FiveThirtyEight website, gave a presentation on the 2016 battleground map to a group of powerful Republican donors in Manhattan last week.

Silver was paid to give the presentation by the American Opportunity Alliance, a group led by some of the biggest GOP donors in the country, including hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer and the Ricketts family, which owns the Chicago Cubs.


Silver’s closed-door session was part of a two-day confab, held Sept. 7–8 at Le Bernardin Prive, a private dining room inside a New York City restaurant run by celebrity chef Eric Ripert.

Upward of three dozen top donors attended the gathering, along with senior Republican Party officials and strategists. Silver’s presentation on Wednesday afternoon was a highlight of the two-day event, people at the event said.

The statistician summed up GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE's chances by showing a slide with a colleague’s tweet: “Remember it's entirely consistent to say 1. Polls have tightened. 2. Clinton still leads. 3. Trump can win. 4. Clinton probably will win.”

He then walked the donors through a battleground map, from Nevada to Florida, providing nonpartisan analysis and projections based on the FiveThirtyEight model.

Attendees said his insights were valuable, though they involved no information that wasn’t already on his website in one form or another. 

Donors who participated in Silver's session besides Singer and Todd Ricketts included Ron Weiser, finance vice chairman of the Trump campaign; Betsy DeVos, a Michigan-based billionaire from one of the country's most powerful political families; Joe Craft, a Kentucky coal magnate and major Trump booster; and New York investor Cliff Asness.

Combined, they and their families have channeled hundred of millions of dollars into Republican politics, and they will play a major role in giving the party the resources it needs to save the House and Senate this year.

It’s not clear how much Silver was paid for the presentation or whether he has also given similar presentations to Democratic donor groups.

Attendees noted to The Hill that Silver gave them no advice on strategy.

Silver did not respond to several requests to comment for this story. A spokeswoman for ESPN, however, downplayed the significance of the talk.

“This was a routine speaking engagement and the information shared reflected content and forecasts publicly available on,” ESPN spokeswoman Amy Phillips said.

Silver became globally famous predicting the 2008 and 2012 elections for his previous employer, The New York Times.

In 2013, he and FiveThirtyEight moved to ESPN, where he oversees a team of reporters covering U.S. elections. The site covers politics and sports with data-driven stories, and Silver also appears as a commentator for ABC News.

Silver, 38, was open about supporting then-Illinois Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaIt's Joe Biden's 2020 presidential nomination to lose Assange hit with 17 new charges, including Espionage Act violations Progressive commentator says Obama was delusional thinking he could work with Republicans MORE's White House bid in 2008 and has since described his personal politics as somewhere between liberal and libertarian.

It isn’t unusual for well-known journalists to supplement their income with private work. Journalists of Silver’s stature often join the speaking circuit, and some make private, paid appearances before trade associations and industry groups.