#CBC: “Canadian agency AggregateIQ used to sidestep Brexit marketing campaign spending limits, whistleblower alleges – Canada ” #Toronto #Montreal #Calgary #Ottawa #Canada

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Watch The National tonight at 9 p.m. ET to listen to an interview with whistleblower Shahmir Sanni.


A Canadian internet advertising firm broadly credited for its outsized position in convincing British voters to depart the European Union was additionally utilized in an effort to sidestep Brexit marketing campaign spending limits, in keeping with a whistleblower — although whether or not the agency was in on the alleged scheme itself shouldn’t be clear.

During the 2016 referendum, a bunch referred to as Vote Leave — backed by then-mayor of London Boris Johnson, amongst others — was the formally designated marketing campaign for the depart facet of the referendum. According to beforehand reported monetary disclosures, about 40 per cent of Vote Leave’s marketing campaign fundraising cap was spent on a small Victoria, B.C.-based firm referred to as AggregateIQ (AIQ) — £three million ($5.four million) in all.   

Other third-party campaigns may additionally elevate cash in assist of the push to depart, and had their very own smaller fundraising cap, so long as they remained impartial of the official marketing campaign.

‘If there was overspending, then what has been trumpeted as the desire of the individuals may need been, actually, one thing that was paid for’
Tamsin Allen, lawyer for whistleblower Shahmir Sanni

AIQ additionally occurred to do work for one in all these supporting campaigns, a youth-focused group referred to as BeLeave, that was offered as separate from Vote Leave

But AIQ’s position within the marketing campaign is well-known. What’s new, in keeping with whistleblower and former Vote Leave volunteer Shahmir Sanni — and paperwork obtained by CBC News, the Guardian, and the New York Times — is that the connection between the Vote Leave and BeLeave campaigns was allegedly a lot nearer than beforehand disclosed.

The extent of that connection is vital. It shouldn’t be towards the legislation for the official marketing campaign to co-ordinate spending with third-party campaigns, however underneath British election legal guidelines, they have to share a single spending cap.

Sanni is claiming that is not what occurred in observe.

AggregateIQ documents

Documents obtained by CBC News, the Guardian, and the New York Times counsel the connection between the Vote Leave and BeLeave campaigns was allegedly a lot nearer than beforehand disclosed. The extent of that connection impacts how companies offered by AggregateIQ depend in direction of marketing campaign spending limits. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“Now, for the first time, we have a really substantial body of evidence which proves that these two campaigns were very, very closely linked — contrary to what they’ve said,” Tamsin Allen, Sanni’s lawyer, mentioned in an interview with CBC News from London on Friday.

“If there was overspending, then what has been trumpeted as the will of the people might have been, in fact, something that was paid for,” she mentioned.

Dominic Cummings, who ran the Vote Leave marketing campaign, and Darren Grimes, who ran BeLeave, each denied the allegations of unlawful spending in statements to The Guardian.

In November final yr, the U.Ok. Electoral Commission opened an investigation into whether or not the 2 campaigns’ use of AIQ’s companies broke British election legislation. Two prior assessments carried out early in 2017 didn’t end in any motion.

If you could have a tip, you’ll be able to contact this reporter securely utilizing Signal or WhatsApp at +1 416 316 4872, or through e-mail at matthew.braga@cbc.ca. For notably delicate messages or paperwork, think about using Secure Drop, an nameless, confidential system for sharing encrypted info with CBC News.

AIQ co-founders Jeff Silvester and Zack Massingham, each based mostly in Victoria, didn’t reply to a number of requests for interviews. But in an announcement, the corporate denied any wrongdoing.

“AggregateIQ works in full compliance within all legal and regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions where we operate,” the corporate informed CBC News, and “has never knowingly been involved in any illegal activity.”

Sanni submitted his proof to the U.Ok.’s Electoral Commission final week. There are plans to launch the fabric to the general public within the days forward, his lawyer says — “and we’ll be asking people to decide for themselves.”

‘You want a Canadian workplace’

The story begins with Christopher Wylie, the Canadian whistleblower who ignited a furor this week after exposing the practices of British political consulting agency Cambridge Analytica.  

The firm obtained the personal info of greater than 50 million Facebook customers, and used the info to hyperlink persona traits to voting behaviour for shoppers akin to Donald Trump’s 2016 election marketing campaign.

Christopher Wylie

Christopher Wylie informed CBC News that Cambridge Analytica focused hundreds of thousands of Americans throughout the election marketing campaign with out their data based mostly on psychological profiles and surveys. (Lily Martin/CBC)

Documents obtained by CBC News present Wylie despatched a fateful e-mail to AIQ co-founder Silvester in August 2013. He described Silvester as a longtime colleague and mentor; the 2 had each labored for Canada’s federal Liberal Party.

In the e-mail, Wylie informed him about his new job as director of analysis for a British political consulting agency referred to as SCL, the mum or dad firm of what would ultimately develop into Cambridge Analytica.

“We mostly do psychological warfare work for NATO,” Wylie wrote within the e-mail. And he connected a brochure. Might Silvester wish to be part of the trigger?

“You need a Canadian office,” Silvester wrote again later that evening.

In November, Silvester and co-founder Zack Massingham signed their first contract with SCL. They named their firm AggregateIQ — and though Wylie says it was technically separate from SCL, he says it was internally known as the British firm’s Canadian arm.

AIQ disputes this. “AggregateIQ has never been and is not a part of Cambridge Analytica or SCL,” the corporate mentioned, and “has never entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica.”

For the following few years, Wylie says AIQ labored on initiatives for Cambridge Analytica world wide in relative anonymity — that’s, till its work on Brexit grew to become front-page information.

That work is now the topic of investigations by the B.C. Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) and Britain’s Information Commissioner — although the jurisdiction wherein AIQ relies might make issues troublesome for the latter.

“They’re based outside the U.K. and it’s going to be very difficult to get that evidence from them,” mentioned Allen, Sanni’s lawyer.

AIQ mentioned it’s cooperating with the OIPC’s investigation, and informed The Globe and Mail final yr that it might cooperate with any probe.

‘There was nothing impartial about all of it’

Central to the investigation is whether or not Vote Leave coordinated with BeLeave to spend an extra £625,000 ($1.1 million), which might have in any other case pushed the official marketing campaign over its spending restrict — and whether or not AIQ knowingly helped them do it.

Vote Leave gave the cash to BeLeavewhich was then spent on companies offered by AIQ.

In an announcement, a lawyer representing AIQ mentioned the corporate “was not aware of any evidence of co-ordination between Vote Leave and BeLeave to break any rules.”

The association was first reported in 2016. The organizers of each campaigns have maintained ever since that BeLeave was a very separate group, appearing by itself, and that there was no co-ordination on how the cash ought to have been spent.

However, Sanni submitted written proof and supporting paperwork to Britain’s Electoral Commission that allege the alternative is true.

Leave campaigners for Brexit

Darren Grimes, who ran the third occasion youth outreach marketing campaign BeLeave, is proven campaigning for Vote Leave. The picture is getting used as proof that the 2 campaigns coordinated. If that is the case, they might have needed to share a single spending cap — which means cash given to BeLeave would have really been in extra of their marketing campaign restrict. (CBC)

According to Sanni, BeLeave really started as a youth outreach initiative related to Vote Leave. Vote Leave and BeLeave even labored out of the identical workplace in central London.

Emails shared with the CBC counsel that BeLeave obtained course and steering from Vote Leave employees. Photos seem to indicate BeLeave volunteers even campaigned for Vote Leave at an occasion held the day earlier than the referendum.

“There was nothing independent about it all,” wrote Sanni in his submission to the fee.

To high all of it off, Sanni offered proof {that a} former Vote Leave staffer, Victoria Woodcock, tried to take away her and different former colleagues’ entry to a shared drive additionally utilized by the BeLeave marketing campaign, whereas the Electoral Commission’s preliminary investigation was nonetheless ongoing — although Sanni doesn’t know why.

In a assertion to The Guardian, Woodcock dismissed the allegations that she “knowingly and deliberately deleted evidence which would be relevant to an investigation in an attempt to frustrate it” as “untrue,” whereas Vote Leave mentioned its employees acted “ethically, responsibly and legally in deleting any data.”

‘There is a gap on this story’

Vote Leave and BeLeave weren’t the one teams figuring out of their London workplace, Sanni alleges. AIQ co-founder Massingham and a colleague had additionally flown to Britain from Victoria, Sanni mentioned, and would have been working in his workplace till the day of the referendum, too.

Initially, that work was for Vote Leave. But within the days main as much as the vote, BeLeave obtained a complete donation of £625,000 from Vote Leave. And in keeping with a dialog Sanni says he had with Grimes, who ran BeLeave, they could not determine the right way to use the cash themselves — say, to pay for journey bills. The entire quantity, Grimes is alleged to have mentioned, needed to go to AIQ.

How, precisely, AIQ spent the cash is not clear. But in keeping with Grimes in a letter to the British Information Commissioner, AIQ’s promoting resulted within the assortment of a mere 2,000 new e-mail addresses and cellphone numbers from supporters within the remaining days of the marketing campaign.

Sanni believes these outcomes have been modest for the quantity that AIQ was paid.

Aggregate IQ documents

Reporters sift by means of piles of paperwork submitted by Shahmir Sanni to Britain’s Electoral Commission, and obtained by CBC News — a few of which concern the Victoria, B.C.-based internet advertising agency AggregateIQ. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“There is a hole in this story, which is precisely what AIQ did with all the money they were given by campaigners in the EU referendum,” mentioned Allen, Sanni’s lawyer. “What happened to that money? Who were they working for, and what messages did they put out, to whom, using what data? That question can only be answered by people working for AIQ. And they’re the ones who need to come here and answer it.”

AIQ informed CBC News that the cost it obtained “was only used for BeLeave’s campaign and purposes, and no other purpose.”

It wasn’t till final summer time, across the time extra detailed reviews started to emerge, that Sanni mentioned he realized one thing was incorrect — concluding that he, an inexperienced volunteer, had been utilized by the Vote Leave’s senior employees in what Sanni claims was a “scam” to spend more cash than legally allowed.

Note: “Previously Published on: 2018-03-25 11:44:23, as ‘Canadian agency AggregateIQ used to sidestep Brexit marketing campaign spending limits, whistleblower alleges – Canada

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