DATA MINING: The Associated Press has learned that part of Mitt Romney's success in raising hundreds of millions of dollars can be traced to a secretive data-mining project that sifts through Americans' personal information.

SOPHISTICATED ANALYSIS: Powerful computers are used to analyze thousands of commercially available databases that include details about credit accounts, families and children, voter registrations, charitable contributions, property tax records and survey responses.

TARGETED: The project uses the same types of strategies corporations used to influence consumers. The company behind it, Buxton Co. of Fort Worth, Texas, usually advises on issues such as the best store locations for retailers, but it has worked on at least one political campaign before.