Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

British cheating on Brexit Vote?

The complications involved in the progress toward Brexit keep growing.

Did Brexit campaigners cheat? And if they did, what does that mean?
If he knocked on your door, Shahmir Sanni might not be what you would expect of a campaigner for Brexit…

Sanni is a young, hip, gay Muslim, a Pakistani Briton who studied economics at his university, loves fashion and is an American-style libertarian, a committed “euroskeptic.”…

Once an anonymous college-age volunteer, Sanni is now front-page news in Britain, as a whistleblower who alleges that pro-Brexit campaigners in 2016 “cheated” — specifically that a prominent group run by top Tories, including now-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, broke election law by coordinating campaigns among allied organizations to circumvent spending caps.

The political firm at the center of the controversy is Aggregate IQ, a tiny Canadian firm closely connected to Cambridge Analytica…

The week-long controversy over who did what and how in the 2016 Brexit vote quickly ensnared Prime Minister Theresa May and her inner circle.

One of May’s senior aides at 10 Downing Street, Stephen Parkinson, was a top Brexit campaigner. He is also Sanni’s former boyfriend…

The accusation of questionable campaign coordination and spending has been dismissed as a “lover’s quarrel” and a total nothingburger. It has also been hyped as a bombshell that calls into question not only the decision to leave the European Union, but Britain’s fair play and democratic values…

Although British law bans coordination between campaigns, Sanni said he… [was] based in the Vote Leave headquarters… advised by Vote Leave staffers, including May’s now-senior adviser, and relied on Vote Leave’s attorney, who helped… incorporate the BeLeave group.

Sanni said that after being instructed to set up a bank account, BeLeave learned it would be getting a donation of $878,000 via the Vote Leave organization, which was then running up against campaign spending limits. But the money never went into the BeLeave account… Instead… it went directly to Aggregate IQ to blast voters in the last week of the campaign with targeted social-media messages…

Christopher Wylie, a former research director for Cambridge Analytica… testified before the British Parliament’s media committee that he helped set up Aggregate IQ, and that it mixed funding and work for Vote Leave and BeLeave in violation of election laws…

[G]overnment minister Chloe Smith said she would not comment on allegations that are under investigation. She added that the Electoral Commission, the official watchdog, had concluded that the Brexit vote was delivered without any major issues and that the government would implement the results.

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