Facing South: Cambridge Analytica's Southern Elections Work Draws Formal Complaints
Revelations about the operations of a British political consulting firm that used improperly obtained Facebook data to help elect President Trump and Republican congressional candidates — including sitting House and Senate members from Arkansas and North Carolina — have sparked formal complaints to federal agencies citing potentially unlawful activity.
The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the FEC on March 30 alleging that those rules were violated. Here's how the campaign finance watchdog describes the alleged wrongdoing:
In the 2014 elections, Cambridge Analytica provided services to the John Bolton Super PAC, the North Carolina Republican Party, and Thom Tillis' campaign. Although Cambridge Analytica is supposed to separate its work for campaigns from its work for super PACs, evidence indicates that this didn't happen — and that Cambridge Analytica acted as a conduit to funnel strategic information to the John Bolton Super PAC — which then spent $1.4 million on ads supporting Tillis' U.S. Senate candidacy.
As a result, the John Bolton Super PAC made excessive and unreported contributions, in violation of the reporting requirements and contribution limits required by law, and in violation of its status as an independent expenditure-only super PAC.
Among the evidence CLC offers for wrongdoing is the fact that a Cambridge Analytica employee boasted on his online portfolio about the company's role in "helping Thom Tillis' successful senatorial campaign create highly targeted advertising" and posted a John Bolton Super PAC video ad expressly advocating for Tillis' election. After a reporter asked questions about the posting, the employee changed the page.
"It is important that the FEC investigate this violation and enforce the law so that the voices of everyday voters are not drowned out by billionaires," said the CLC's Brendan Fischer. "This apparent violation fits into a pattern where the use of Cambridge Analytica as a vendor seems to be a condition of billionaire megadonor Robert Mercer's support of a candidate. Cambridge Analytica has been used in both the U.S. and U.K. to unlawfully coordinate political entities in order to evade campaign finance limits."