Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How To Rig An Election

Via Melissa McEwan at Shakesville, here’s a backgrounder from Britain’s Channel 4 on Cambridge Analytica, the company that turned dirty tricks in an election campaign into a profit-making venture.

Senior executives at Cambridge Analytica – the data company that credits itself with Donald Trump’s presidential victory – have been secretly filmed saying they could entrap politicians in compromising situations with bribes and Ukrainian sex workers.

In an undercover investigation by Channel 4 News, the company’s chief executive Alexander Nix said the British firm secretly campaigns in elections across the world. This includes operating through a web of shadowy front companies, or by using sub-contractors.

In one exchange, when asked about digging up material on political opponents, Mr Nix said they could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”.

In another he said: “We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the Internet.”

Offering bribes to public officials is an offence under both the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Cambridge Analytica operates in the UK and is registered in the United States.

The admissions were filmed at a series of meetings at London hotels over four months, between November 2017 and January 2018. An undercover reporter for Channel 4 News posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka.

Mr Nix told our reporter: “…we’re used to operating through different vehicles, in the shadows, and I look forward to building a very long-term and secretive relationship with you.”

Along with Mr Nix, the meetings also included Mark Turnbull, the managing director of CA Political Global, and the company’s chief data officer, Dr Alex Tayler.

Video link.

Those of us of a certain age will recall that G. Gordon Liddy, the wild-eyed undercover operator of the Nixon re-election campaign in 1972, proposed the same kind of shenanigans against the Democrats and was dismissed by former Attorney General and then campaign chair John Mitchell as being too much cray-cray for him.  (Both Liddy and Mitchell did time for their parts in Watergate.)  Now it looks like you can buy it off the shelf.