Colorado Senate GOP Used Cambridge Analytica To Win

John Frank and Mark Matthews of the Denver Post break yet another big story about manipulation of Colorado elections by outside actors, plying novel–and as it turns out, improper–social media engagement tactics to “microtarget” Colorado voters in what appears to have been a preview of Donald Trump’s unprecedented manipulation of social media to win the presidency in 2016.

Take a deep breath and keep reading, this is a big deal:

The political firm that obtained private data on millions of Facebook users worked in Colorado to help Republicans win a crucial majority in the state Senate.

Cambridge Analytica used its data to create “psychographic” profiles that allowed Republican operatives to target specific Colorado voters in battleground state Senate districts in 2014.

The company — now under investigation in two countries — touted its work with the Senate Majority Fund in 2014 as key to Republicans winning a one-vote majority in the state chamber for the first time in a decade. “These victories ultimately gave the GOP control over the Colorado state Senate,” the Cambridge Analytica website once touted. [Pols emphasis]

That’s a bold claim, and we’re obviously very interested in seeing the details behind it. Cambridge Analytica is under fire for having allegedly gone distantly beyond Facebook’s policies governing data aggregation on site users to build these so-called “psychographic profiles” of American voters–profiles that allowed the Trump campaign to identify and deploy precise messaging to individuals to persuade them to first support the Trump campaign, and then get out the vote. Or, failing that, to demotivate voters who could not be won over and persuade them to opt out of voting.

And apparently, our state was a practice run.

Given the extremely small margin by which Colorado Republicans won the Senate in 2014, fewer than 1,000 votes in a single suburban senate district, the work that Cambridge takes credit for in the story above could easily have made the difference. And everything that has happened since GOP won the Senate majority in 2014, to include the present impasse over sexual harassment under GOP leadership in the Colorado Senate, can be fairly considered the fruits of Cambridge Analytica’s work too.

Which means they have a lot to answer for even before we even start talking about Trump.

22 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. unnamed says:

    After reading the original Guardian piece, I am not surprised by this revelation.

  2. RepealAndReplace says:

    I did not know that any of them was sophisticated enough to read and understand anyof this type of data.

  3. JohnInDenver says:

    I thought our state Republican party was bought and paid for by Anshutz,  Maffei, Mizel and Malone. Who knew the Mercers were so involved?

  4. Pseudonymous says:

    Holy updates, Batman.

    The Senate Majority Fund used the data to craft six mailers in 2014 but paid Cambridge Analytica and SCL through a “dark money” nonprofit organization called Concerned Citizens for Colorado that doesn’t disclose its donors.

    Concerned Citizens paid Cambridge Analytica and SCL $344,000 in 2014, according to tax filings, with $142,000 of that spent on political efforts. The spending represented about 30 percent of the total spent by Concerned Citizens that year. The same organization later paid Cambridge Analytica another $100,000 in 2015 for polling and consulting work, tax records show. [emphasis mine]

    • Davie says:

      I feel very comforted to know that a fascist billionaire is working so hard behind the curtain to guide the humble citizens of America to serve the will of Koch.

      Mercer upon the souls of those that follow the path of Moderatus.

      Mercer upon us all.  Koch be willing!


    • Well that could be interesting depending on how specific those mailers got for candidates. SMF is a 527, prohibited from spending on candidates.

      • Pseudonymous says:

        I don't believe that's true for non-federal candidates.

        • A 527 is a Federal entity. The IRS doesn't care whether the candidate is for president or dog-catcher.

          • Pseudonymous says:

            Colorado Supreme Court upholds “magic words” test for political spending by 527s

            Under state law, however, if a campaign expenditure “expressly advocates” for a candidate or ballot measure, the group is considered a political committee. Colorado election law limits the amount of money that committees may accept from any person to $550 every two years.

            Colorado Ethics Watch, a government-watchdog group, filed a complaint against the 527s in September 2008, arguing that the ads expressly advocated for specific candidates and therefore the groups should be considered political committees and subject to financial limits.

            So, not no direct spending on candidates, but direct advocacy may limit the 527's ability to raise money.

            Lawyers for the Senate Majority Fund and the Colorado Leadership Fund countered that under state and federal law, to expressly advocate for a candidate, the ads must include one or more of the “magic words” — which none of their ads did. Those words include “vote for,” “reject,” “defeat,” “elect” and “cast your ballot for.”

            In an opinion written by Chief Justice Michael Bender the high court agreed, saying that the “magic words” standard was in place when voters passed a campaign finance and regulation provision known as Amendment 27 in 2002. The court also said the standard Ethics Watch suggested could be considered overly vague, and therefore a violation of free speech.

            So, raise as much as you want, as long as you don't use the "magic words" when advocating for a candidate.

  5. Zappatero says:

    From elsewhere on the innertoobz:

    Just a reminder of some other clients  of Cambridge Analytica:

    —Donald Trump 
    —North Carolina GOP 
    —National Rifle Association
    —Ted Cruz 
    —John Bolton 
    —Ben Carson 
    —Tom Cotton 
    —Thom Tillis 

  6. Moderatus says:

    I'm just going to leave this here.

    Cambridge Analytica is accused of harvesting data to build profiles on 50 million Facebook users, who agreed to fill out a survey, in an attempt to help Team Trump target specific voters with ads and stories.

    Shapiro noted that Facebook didn’t object when Obama’s team used tactics similar to what Trump’s campaign employed, noting that a former Obama campaign staffer recently admitted Facebook didn’t try to stop Obama’s 2012 re-election team because the company wanted him to win.    

    Obama’s campaign built a database of every American voter using the same Facebook developer tool used by Cambridge, known as the social graph API, according to the Washington Post. This technology allowed the Obama campaign to access information of voters to figure out “which people would be most likely to influence other people in their network to vote,” according to the paper.

    “Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing,” ex-Obama campaign staffer Carol Davidsen tweeted on Sunday from her verified account.

    • unnamed says:

      Oh did you read the Fox News article about the California teacher that fired his gun in the classroom and injured students?

    • 1) did they consume friend lists, or friend profiles? What the blurb you wrote indicates is the former; what CA did is the latter – much more intrusive.

      2) did they get the data through a 3rd party? That's resale, which Facebook almost certainly prohibits in its TOS, and which is how CA got its data.

      3) Brad Parscale, who ran Trump's digital campaign, had Facebook employees camped in his office helping. It's not as though Obama's team had a more helpful relationship.

    • MichaelBowman says:

      Speaking of Faux News…

      Lt. Col. Ralph Peters says he's 'ashamed' of Fox News and leaves his role as analyst

      Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a longtime analyst for Fox News, told colleagues he is done with the network he says has become "a propaganda machine" for President Trump.

      Peters said in an email first reported Tuesday by BuzzFeed that he chose not to renew his contract as a paid contributor with Fox News on March 1 because he was "ashamed" of the network.

      He said the 21st Century Fox-owned cable channel has gone from being a valuable conservative voice to "assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers."

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