Cambridge Analytica assigned dozens of non-U.S. citizens to provide campaign strategy and messaging advice to Republican candidates in 2014, according to three former workers for the data firm, even as an attorney warned executives to abide by U.S. laws limiting foreign involvement in elections. The assignments came amid efforts to present the newly created company as “an American brand” that would appeal to U.S. political clients even though its parent, SCL Group, was based in London, according to former Cambridge Analytica research director Christopher Wylie. Wylie, who emerged this month as a whistleblower, provided The Washington Post with documents that describe a program across several U.S. states to win campaigns for Republicans using psychological profiling to reach voters with individually tailored messages. The documents include previously unreported details about the program, which was called “Project Ripon” for the Wisconsin town where the Republican Party was born in 1854.
U.S. election regulations say foreign nationals must not “directly or indirectly participate in the decision-making process” of a political campaign, although they can play lesser roles.
Those restrictions were explained in a 10-page memo prepared in July 2014 by a New York attorney, Laurence Levy, for Cambridge Analytica’s leadership at the time, including President Rebekah Mercer, Vice President Stephen K. Bannon and chief executive Alexander Nix. The memo said that foreign nationals could serve in minor roles — for example as “functionaries” handling data — but could not involve themselves in significant campaign decisions or provide high-level analysis or strategy.