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Cambridge Analytica had "foreign agents" working on the 2014 GOP midterms

“We knew that everything was not aboveboard, but we weren’t too concerned about it.”

by David Gilbert
Mar 26 2018, 12:40pm

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Cambridge Analytica sent dozens of foreign workers to advise Republican 2014 midterm campaigns, even though the company’s own lawyer explicitly warned that doing so was illegal, the Washington Post reported Monday.

Three former Cambridge Analytica employees, including whistleblower Christopher Wylie, detailed the company’s decision to ignore legal advice and send Canadians, Britons, and Europeans to work on Republican campaigns.

“[Cambridge Analytica’s] 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.

The employees were sent to the U.S. despite a 10-page memo prepared by New York Attorney Laurence Levy for CA President Rebekah Mercer, Vice President Steve Bannon, and CEO Alexander Nix, explaining why this was potentially illegal.

Levy told those CA executives that foreign employees cannot “directly or indirectly participate in the decision-making process” of a political campaign, although they can play lesser roles.

According to documents seen by the Post touting CA’s 2014 work, its employees were involved in everything from deciding what voters to target, to managing media relations, fundraising, planning events, and providing “communications strategy.”

Company documents obtained by the Post show the U.S. program — dubbed Project Ripon after the name of the town where the Republican party was founded — involved a staff of 41 employees and contractors, and spent $7.5 million between April and July 2014.

The Post spoke to two former CA employees in London, who spoke anonymously due to concerns that they may have violated U.S. law.

“We knew that everything was not aboveboard, but we weren’t too concerned about it,” one former employee, who spent several months in the U.S. working on Republican campaigns, said. “It was the Wild West. That’s certainly how they carried on in 2014.”

The company, which has become embroiled in a global scandal involving the harvesting of data from tens of millions of Facebook account holders, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest allegations.

The company previously told the New York Times that all “personnel in strategic roles were U.S. nationals or green card holders” and that Nix “never had any strategic or operational role” in election campaigns in the United States.

Cover image: Former U.S. President advisor Steve Bannon delivers a speech during the French far-right Front National party annual congress on March 10, 2018, in Lille, France. (Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)