The advocacy group Common Cause filed a pair of legal complaints on Monday alleging that Cambridge Analytica violated U.S. election laws by sending foreign nationals to the U.S. to work on Republican campaigns in 2014.
According to the Washington Post, at least 20 non-U.S. citizens worked on campaigns for Republicans across the U.S. in 2014. The Post spoke to several ex-Cambridge Analytica workers who said that many of those operatives were “involved in helping to decide what voters to target with political messages and what messages to deliver to them.” Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who first revealed the firm’s Facebook data shenanigans, told the Post it was a “dirty little secret” that “there was no one American involved in it, that it was a de facto foreign agent, working on an American election.”
The law hinges on whether the advisers were involved in decision-making processes in the campaigns. A Cambridge Analytica memo reported by the New York Times outlines the legal guidelines for those operatives. The memo said that they couldn’t be involved in managing “the work and decision making functions, relative to campaign messaging and expenditures,” but they could “act as functionaries that collect and process data,” as long as they didn’t make any decisions for the campaigns based on that data. Common Cause wrote in a press release that it was “abundantly clear” that these rules had been violated.
Cambridge Analytica declined to comment both to the Post and to ABC News, which first reported on the Common Cause complaint. I have also reached out to them for comment and will update if I hear back.
The complaints were filed with the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission. The FEC, as I wrote earlier this month, is a little hopeless and very slow on actually acting on complaints, including on foreign influence in elections. This is largely due to the two Republicans on the commission, who block the commission from getting basically anything done.
Maybe this time will be different, if only because it would be appropriately stupid if the only punishment Cambridge Analytica faced was for violating a mildly xenophobic rule banning nasty foreigners from working on U.S. elections and not for stealing 50 million people’s data. Especially since Britain had to put up with Jim Messina coming over to run Theresa May’s (abysmal) campaign last year, and David Cameron’s in 2015. Tit for tat, fuckers.