Parties disavow any connection to Cambridge Analytica

Guyana has been identified by SCL Elections, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica (CA), as home to one of its clients but the three main political parties are all saying “not it.”

Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm is currently at the centre of a controversy involving  the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK) and Facebook.  It has been revealed that CA, which was hired by US President Donald Trump’s campaign to build targeted ads during the 2016 US election, harvested data from 50 million Facebook users without their consent. The firm’s role in the fiercely contested Brexit referendum in the UK is also under scrutiny after whistleblowers revealed they worked for the Leave campaign.

The company according to its website provides data, analytics and strategy to governments and military organizations worldwide and has provided different services for different clients.

The details of the company’s work in Guyana have not been made public but the three major political parties have all told Stabroek News that they did not utilize CA’s services during the 2011 or 2015 elections.

Former President Donald Ramotar noted that CA “didn’t do electoral work for the People’s Progressive Party/Civic while [he] was General Secretary (GS) or Presidential Candidate.” Ramotar served as GS from 1997 to 2013 and was presidential candidate in 2011 and 2015.

General Secretary of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Joseph Harmon made a similar statement. He stressed that having acted as campaign manager in 2011 and 2015 he could state that CA was never employed by the party.

Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson who managed the Alliance for Change campaign in 2015 told Stabroek News, “they never worked with us.”

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News site Quartz reports that in Kenya SCL rolled out a political research project covering 47,000 respondents, part of an effort to understand the needs and fears of the electorate.

“SCL subsequently advised the client (one of Kenya’s two principal parties) on communications, branding and policy,” a company document reportedly states. The principal is reported to possibly be Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, who is reported to have used the firm’s services in 2013 and 2017.

According to various media reports on the content of company documents issued around 2013, SCL has worked in 32 countries across Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. More than 100 election campaigns were reportedly affected.

In the Caribbean SCL claims to have worked in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, St Kitts & Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda.

Presenting Saint Kitts and Nevis as a case study on its website the company says it managed the Labour Party’s general election campaign in 2010, leading to the unprecedented fourth-term victory of Prime Minister Denzil Douglas.

The SCL documents also reportedly claim that the company was able to delay elections and stage a “national pride” campaign that helped its client hold on to power in the late 2000s:

The goal of the campaign was to remind the population that despite tough times the country was working well and improving. The ‘It’s Working’ campaign covered tourism, health, education, sport and the economy and became so popular that it was embraced across the political divide.

Another case study presented is the 2009 Trinidad and Tobago elections about which the website states that the employment of CA’s research-based differential campaigns and establishment of consistent policy and variegated communications contributed to the People’s Partnership Coalition’s landslide victory. The victory likewise saw Trinidad & Tobago’s first-ever female Prime Minister. CA subsequently supported the governing coalition with ongoing advice, they added.

Trinidad’s PNM government has launched an investigation of the company’s activities on the twin-island republic.

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