|Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix.|
Things would seem to be getting worse and worse for the Republican Party as more and more information comes to light about the role that Cambridge Analytic played in Republican campaigns even before the 2016 presidential election. Specifically, foreigners were involved in advising Republican campaigns in a number of congressional campaigns across the country even though such activity was illegal. It's all part of the GOP agenda to win no matter what be it through disenfranchising those perceived to be pro-Democrat to outright flouting the law. The obvious take away is that if this happened in 2014, it is pretty safe to assume that it happened in spades in 2016. Just as tellingly, Steve Bannon and his ultra-right wing financiers were involved in the 2014 effort. Note that John Bolton's name also comes up. A piece in the Washington Post looks at this new development. Here are highlights:
Cambridge Analytica assigned dozens of non-U.S. citizens to provide campaign strategy and messaging advice to Republican candidates in 2014, according to three former workers for the data firm, even as an attorney warned executives to abide by U.S. laws limiting foreign involvement in elections.
Wylie, who emerged this month as a whistleblower, provided The Washington Post with documents that describe a program across several U.S. states to win campaigns for Republicans using psychological profiling to reach voters with individually tailored messages. The documents include previously unreported details about the program, which was called “Project Ripon” for the Wisconsin town where the Republican Party was born in 1854.
Those [election law] restrictions were explained in a 10-page memo prepared in July 2014 by a New York attorney, Laurence Levy, for Cambridge Analytica’s leadership at the time, including President Rebekah Mercer, Vice President Stephen K. Bannon and chief executive Alexander Nix. The memo said that foreign nationals could serve in minor roles — for example as “functionaries” handling data — but could not involve themselves in significant campaign decisions or provide high-level analysis or strategy.
Many of those employees and contractors were involved in helping to decide what voters to target with political messages and what messages to deliver to them, the former workers said. Their tasks ran the gamut of campaign work, including “managing media relations” as well as fundraising, planning events, and providing “communications strategy” and “talking points, speeches [and] debate prep,” according to a document touting the firm’s 2014 work.
“Its dirty little secret was that there was no one American involved in it, that it was a de facto foreign agent, working on an American election,” Wylie said.
Two other former Cambridge Analytica workers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear that they may have violated U.S. law in their campaign work, said concerns about the legality of Cambridge Analytica’s work in the United States were a regular subject of employee conversations at the company, especially after the 2014 vote.
[E]mployees worried the company was giving its foreign employees potentially inaccurate immigration documents to provide upon entering the United States, showing that they were not there to work when they had arrived for the purpose of advising campaigns.
“We knew that everything was not above board, but we weren’t too concerned about it,” said one of the former Cambridge Analytica workers, who spent several months in the United States working on Republican campaigns. “It was the Wild West. That’s certainly how they carried on in 2014.”
Cambridge Analytica, whose offices were raided over the weekend by British authorities, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing but did not reply to requests for comment from The Washington Post for this story.
Project Ripon was described by Wylie and other workers as an ambitious effort in which Cambridge Analytica would advise American campaigns on how to use data to find “hidden Republicans.” Ripon also was the name of an online campaign management tool designed for the effort and described in a company brochure produced in London that was subtitled, “WINNING BACK AMERICA.”
Company documents obtained by The Post show the U.S. program involved a staff of 41 employees and contractors, and spent $7.5 million between April and July 2014.
Cambridge Analytica documents show it advised a congressional candidate in Oregon, state legislative candidates in Colorado and, on behalf of the North Carolina Republican Party, the winning campaign for Sen. Thom Tillis.
The company, which asserted that Republican candidates won most of the races it worked on in 2014, also provided independent support for candidates in Arkansas, New Hampshire and North Carolina through a super PAC controlled by former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, who was named last week by Trump to be national security adviser.
Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer at Akerman LLP, said the accounts of Wylie and the other former Cambridge Analytica workers raises legal concerns. “If Mr. Wylie's allegations are true, the Justice Department could prosecute Cambridge Analytica and its managers for knowing and willful violations of the prohibition on foreign national contributions.”
“It would be a problem for a U.S. super PAC — or any other domestic political actor — to have foreign nationals involved in running a political operation, including making decisions on strategy, targeting and expenditures for that political entity,” he said. “If foreigners were involved in the senior levels of decision-making for a political organization, that would be a violation of federal law.”
The former Cambridge Analytica workers did not provide information about what transpired in 2016, when the company did work for Cruz and Trump.
The plot just keeps on continuing to thicken. A piece in The Guardian has details on what may have transpired in 2016 here.