Executives at Cambridge Analytica, a UK data firm, were filmed between November 2017 and January 2018 bragging about offering bribes to politicians and setting up liaisons between lawmakers and prostitutes in order to entrap the politicians.
Cambridge Analytica is partly owned by billionaire Robert Mercer, a supporter of President Donald Trump and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who both used the services of Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 election.
Channel 4 News reporters in the UK went undercover as prospective clients and filmed Cambridge Analytica CEO chief Alexander Nix saying that his company could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house,” and adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well.”
Nix also bragged talked about setting up candidates’ political rivals by giving them bribes, which would be filmed and posted on the web:
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.
Nix said Cambridge Analytica prefers to hire third-party operatives to do the work for them, and explained how Cambridge Analytica covers its tracks:
Many of our clients don’t want to be seen to be working with a foreign company… so often we set up, if we are working then we can set up fake IDs and websites, we can be students doing research projects attached to a university, we can be tourists, there’s so many options we can look at. I have lots of experience in this.
In response to the video, a Cambridge Analytica spokesman denied what Nix said on video:
We entirely refute any allegation that Cambridge Analytica or any of its affiliates use entrapment, bribes, or so-called “honey-traps” for any purpose whatsoever… We routinely undertake conversations with prospective clients to try to tease out any unethical or illegal intentions… Cambridge Analytica does not use untrue material for any purpose.
Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower who helped set up Cambridge Analytica, told The Guardian how the firm helped pass Brexit in the UK and worked with Steve Bannon to help elect Trump:
In 2014, Steve Bannon – then executive chairman of the “alt-right” news network Breitbart – was Wylie’s boss. And Robert Mercer, the secretive US hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor, was Cambridge Analytica’s investor. And the idea they bought into was to bring big data and social media to an established military methodology – “information operations” – then turn it on the US electorate.
Wylie said that Cambridge Analytica worked with worked with a Cambridge University academic to build a powerful software program that profiled individual U.S. voters in order to target them with personalized political ads:
We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Cruz presidential campaign paid Cambridge Analytica six months after initial reports that Cambridge Analytica was using illicitly-sourced Facebook data in 2015.