DUP Dark Money https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/24433/all cached version 18/01/2019 19:55:32 en Beyond the Brexit pantomime https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/mary-fitzgerald/investigating-murky-deals-beyond-parliament-brexit-pantomime <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Forget the political melodrama. What matters most are the deep weaknesses in our democracy that Brexit has exposed – and which extend across Europe.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/PA-40644639.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/PA-40644639.jpg" alt="Theresa May speaking before the vote on her Brexit deal in the House of Commons, London. Image: PA" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May speaking before the vote on her Brexit deal in the House of Commons, London. Image: PA</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Ignore anyone who claims to know where Britain will be in a week’s time. The New York Times has produced a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/01/15/world/europe/may-brexit-vote-fail.html?action=click&amp;module=Top%20Stories&amp;pgtype=Homepage">flowchart</a> for the constitutional mess the country now finds itself in. Unsurprisingly, it’s mindbendingly complex. No one really knows where we go after Theresa May’s crushing defeat in Parliament. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The coming days will be filled with excited chatter, behind-the-scenes horse-trading and misleading smoke signals. But while commentators fixate on the tawdry political melodrama, it’s worth sitting back and reflecting on the far wider, systemic weaknesses that Brexit has exposed – and which extend across the European continent.</p><p dir="ltr">That it has taken two-and-a-half years for Britain’s parliament to start a conversation about what Brexit really means is a damning indictment of a political system that badly needs reform. For Britain, a written constitution and a fairer voting system that builds a culture of political dialogue, compromise and deeper democratic engagement with citizens would be a start.</p><p dir="ltr">But Brexit has triggered far more than this. Over the past two years, openDemocracy and a small network of investigative journalists have exposed just how vulnerable to manipulation our democratic systems are – in the UK and across Europe. &nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr">Law? What law?</h2><p dir="ltr">In the UK, there are laws which are supposed to allow citizens to know who funds their politics. But the system is full of holes. My colleagues Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay have exposed how a large <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">Brexit donation to the Democratic Unionist Party was channelled via a secretive group</a>, abusing outdated Northern Irish laws to shield the identity of the donors. Despite <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-dirty-secrets-of-dup-s-dark-money-brexit-donor">mounting calls from politicians</a>, the UK elections watchdog has still refused to launch a full investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">Along with Carole Cadwalladr at The Observer and others, we’ve exposed how Arron Banks, the largest Brexit donor, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">misled Parliament</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">lied to regulators about the sources of his wealth</a>, triggering parliamentary questions on ‘Russian interference in western democracies’ and an <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/01/arron-banks-referred-to-agency-over-suspected-offences-in-brexit-campaign">investigation by the National Crime Agency</a>. Vote Leave and Banks’s Leave.EU were both found guilty of breaking electoral law, with senior figures reported to the Metropolitan Police.</p><p dir="ltr">We’ve exposed the connections between the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/brexit-bankroller-arron-banks-cambridge-analytica-and-steve-bannon-expl">Brexit campaign, Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica</a> – and how British taxpayers are funding a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">hardline pro-Brexit lobby group of MPs</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Our work has had an impact. Lawmakers <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/electoral-commission-demand-right-to-publish-northern-irish-brexit-campaign">ended donor secrecy</a> in Northern Ireland. Our reporting was<a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcumeds/363/36302.htm"> cited as evidence</a> by the UK’s influential parliamentary inquiry into fake news, has made headlines across the world, and fed into ongoing investigations by lawmakers in the US and UK.</p><p dir="ltr">But – what does it all amount to?</p><h2 dir="ltr">Beyond Brexit</h2><p dir="ltr">Britain’s politicians are set to struggle through a constitutional labyrinth that could well lead to another referendum, some time within the next six months. Meanwhile Europe gears up for elections in May which are likely to deliver significant gains to the far right. Both of these democratic processes are plainly vulnerable to the kind of wide-scale manipulation our investigations have found in the original referendum campaign – and elsewhere. </p><p>Last year, during Ireland’s historic abortion referendum, we<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claire-provost-lara-whyte/north-american-anti-abortion-facebook-ireland-referendum"> dug deep</a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/mary-fitzgerald/can-ireland-escape-influence-of-dark-online-advertising-on-its-abortion-referendum"> into who</a> was financing and supporting the anti-repeal lobby, and how voters were being targeted on social media, despite Facebook’s promise to ban foreign-funded adverts. The same day that Mark Zuckerberg was assuring MEPs in Brussels that Facebook had sophisticated systems in place to prevent foreign interference in the Irish vote, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/six-ways-Ireland-abortion-vote-hacked-foreign-influence">our journalists were able to circumvent these so-called firewalls in a matter of hours</a>.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Multinational tech firms will not protect the pillars of democratic culture if their own profile and profit margins will suffer in the process.</p><p>Time and again, the tech giants have shown that the regulation of the democratic process must not be outsourced to them. They are part of the problem. Google, for example, has poured millions into its Europe-wide Digital News Initiative, aimed at helping to ‘save’ the news industry. But last May, openDemocracy revealed that Google was one of six companies that had<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick/george-osborne-s-london-evening-standard-promises-positive-news-coverage-to-uber-goo"> agreed a secret £3 million deal with London’s Evening Standard</a> newspaper for “money-can’t-buy” positive news and “favourable” comment coverage. Editor George Osborne faced widespread calls to resign and the controversial project was delayed. This is just a microscopic example of how vast multinational tech firms will not protect the pillars of democratic culture – be they press freedom, transparency, accountability or the rule of law – if their own profile and profit margins will suffer in the process.</p><h2 dir="ltr">How to strengthen democracy</h2><p dir="ltr">So what can be done to prevent a rerun of the abuses of the 2016 EU referendum in Britain’s next democratic contest – whenever that is – and in the EU elections in May?</p><p dir="ltr">There are short-term solutions that will make a difference. Far heftier penalties for breaking British electoral law would be a start. (Currently, you can be fined more for touting football tickets than you <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/laws-protecting-britains-democracy-from-big-money-are-broken">can for subverting Britain's democratic process</a>.) We need real-time campaign spending reporting – so that cheating is exposed before the vote, not after it’s been won.</p><p dir="ltr">Criminal and regulatory enforcement agencies across Europe must get far greater resources and a wider remit to investigate and scrutinise. Lawmakers, at the national and European level, must compel the tech platforms to be more transparent and co-operate. This is complicated – and will take time – but we cannot outsource democracy to Silicon Valley.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Nothing will change if the public doesn’t know what has gone wrong.</p><p dir="ltr">Most importantly, and immediately, citizens, philanthropists, governments and frankly anyone who has a dime should be giving whatever they can to support investigative journalism that has a proven track record in exposing how those with hidden agendas are seeking to influence what we see, hear and think. </p><p dir="ltr">Why is this the most important thing? Because nothing will change if the public doesn’t know what has gone wrong.</p><h2 dir="ltr">The openDemocracy agenda</h2><p dir="ltr">Of course, it’s my job to make the case for openDemocracy (<a href="https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/expose-the-dark-money-driving-brexit">and you can support our work here</a>), but there’s a wider, long-term crisis in the funding of high-quality journalism right when we need it most. </p><p dir="ltr">It is very likely that British voters will be back at the polls soon. Whenever that happens, we urgently needs the resources to:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">• Forensically investigate all the major sources of political funding, and the channels through which funds flow;</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">• Track how so-called ‘grassroots’ campaign groups are financed and organised – so abuses like Vote Leave’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">illegal exploitation</a> of a 23-year-old fashion student can’t happen again;</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">• Closely monitor how voters are being targeted on social media, compiling evidence that prevents the abuse of vulnerable groups and the spread of misinformation online – we have a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/sophie-hemery/us-evangelicals-target-lgbt-young-people-facebook-youtube-ads">track record of success on this</a>, but need to do far more;</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">• Expose how secretive, unaccountable lobbying operations are trying to influence public debate. (We've already exposed much to be concerned about at the influential, dark-money funded&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/institute-for-economic-affairs">Institute for Economic Affairs</a>, and at the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Legatum Institute</a>.)</p></li></ul><p>We have <a href="https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/expose-the-dark-money-driving-brexit">fresh leads to chase down</a> on overseas links to major players seeking to shape Brexit, and on those seeking to redraw the political map of Europe in May’s parliamentary elections. We are already mapping the networks that are financing and organising key far-right groups across Europe; analysing how their messaging is targeting voters on social media; and exposing how these groups are seeking to circumvent laws aimed to ensure political transparency and to prevent foreign interference.</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, investigative journalism is not enough. In this age of tech-platform dominance, we also need media which actively and thoughtfully seeks to challenge assumptions and burst filter bubbles. (See <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/why-i-voted-for-donald-trump">Why I voted for Donald Trump</a>, or<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/michael-skey/stop-snearing-at-leave-voters-they-knew-exactly-what-they-were-doing"> Stop sneering at Leave voters, they knew exactly what they were doing</a>). We need publishers and platforms committed to helping stimulate a deeper democratic culture, of debate and dialogue, which confronts polarisation head on. Often, the most revolutionary initiatives in this space are happening in local communities, and we need to hear their stories. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/build-bridges">A film we made in Belfast</a>, for example, shows how grassroots groups are overcoming prejudice and intolerance against refugees and migrants by doing something quite simple: hosting face-to-face conversations.</p><p dir="ltr">We are part of a very small, under-resourced network of journalists working on stories which have raised a string of vital questions for modern democracy: who gets to shape our elections, and our public conversation.</p><p dir="ltr">We aren’t doing this because we <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/mary-fitzgerald/if-brexit-was-hacked-shouldnt-we-know-exactly-who-paid">have a pro or anti-Brexit agenda</a>, or any other political goals or allegiances, but because we believe it’s vital that citizens everywhere know who is seeking to influence what they see and hear, and who has access to key information that affects their lives.</p><p dir="ltr">If you agree, please consider <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&amp;id=34" target="_blank">supporting our work today</a>. Thank you.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-dirty-secrets-of-dup-s-dark-money-brexit-donor">Revealed: the dirty secrets of the DUP’s ‘dark money’ Brexit donor</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">Arron Banks lied to parliament about his Brexit campaign, say whistleblowers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/james-cusick/george-osborne-s-london-evening-standard-promises-positive-news-coverage-to-uber-goo">George Osborne’s London Evening Standard sells its editorial independence to Uber, Google and others – for £3 million</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Mary Fitzgerald Thu, 17 Jan 2019 11:26:12 +0000 Mary Fitzgerald 121320 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: the dirty secrets of the DUP’s ‘dark money’ Brexit donor https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-dirty-secrets-of-dup-s-dark-money-brexit-donor <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>MPs call on Richard Cook to “emerge from the shadows” after we uncover his trail of illegal waste, unpaid bills and court documents stretching from India to California.</p> </div> </div> </div> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Richard Cook David Cameron_0_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Richard Cook David Cameron_0_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Richard Cook and David Cameron. Image: voterichardcook.blogspot.com, fair use.</span></span></span> <span>MPs have called upon Richard Cook, the man behind a secretive group that channelled&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">£435,000 to the DUP’s Brexit campaign</a>, to “emerge from the shadows and explain where this money came from”.</span><p>Their calls come as openDemocracy today reveals disturbing new details about Mr Cook's business dealings across the globe. Our investigation has uncovered an international trail of regulatory concern, legal action and debt linked to Cook that stretches from an Indian port to a California courtroom.</p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Cook has so far refused to reveal the source</a>&nbsp;of the controversial £435,000 donation to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which bankrolled lavish pro-Leave campaigning in the final weeks before the EU referendum. However, amid escalating questions around his business career, cross-party MPs are now demanding that Cook appears before parliament to explain the source of the money.</p> <p>Brendan O’Hara, a Scottish National Party member on the powerful Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said that Cook should appear before the committee’s ‘fake news’ inquiry to answer questions about his role in funnelling the biggest donation the DUP has ever received.</p> <p>“I think [Cook] has information which would be very useful to our investigation in relation to spending around the Brexit referendum,” O’Hara said.</p> <p>Today, we detail a series of international deals linked to Mr Cook and his waste management firm, DDR Recycling Ltd, which have provoked concern, including:&nbsp;</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Cook was a defendant in a California court case after DDR Recycling left an international haulage firm with unpaid bills of over $1.5m for shipments to Korea. A default judgement was made against DDR and Cook.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;UK and Scottish environmental regulators told Cook that he was involved in an “illegal waste shipment” of 250 tonnes of rubber to India. Test results supplied by Cook to the regulator appear to be fake.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Cook said that an Eastern European company was to blame for the illegal Indian waste shipment. When authorities pointed out that Cook’s own LinkedIn page said he was a director of the firm, he claimed that his account had been hacked.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;On that LinkedIn page, Cook lists his current post as “president of international development” at a Canadian waste management firm. This company has regularly failed to file accounts, in breach of corporate law in Canada, and shows little sign of economic activity.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;DDR Recycling Limited is currently in liquidation owing British tax authorities around £150,000. After Cook left the company, it was involved in a trade in gold that saw $5m deposited in a Cambodian bank account. Liquidators are “currently investigating”.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Cook had previously said that he had signed agreements worth $1bn to build environmental projects in Pakistan. A US businessman reportedly involved in the deal said that his company had not worked on the project and complained that Cook “never returned a call or an email”.</p> <p>Cook strongly denies any wrongdoing, but the fresh details of his business career have renewed focus on the Brexit cash he channelled to the DUP, via a secretive group called the Constitutional Research Council.</p> <p>The DCMS committee first wrote to Cook about the controversial £435,000 DUP Brexit donation in November.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/17254271.scots-tory-in-435000-brexit-dark-money-row-facing-questions-by-mps/">Cook claimed that his response had been “lost”</a>, but openDemocracy can now reveal that he did subsequently reply to the committee chair, Conservative MP Damian Collins, in what has been described by sources close to the committee as “a less than conciliatory manner”.</p> <p>The DUP, which now props up Theresa May’s government in Parliament,&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex">has always refused to reveal</a>&nbsp;where its record amount of Brexit cash came from, or why it was channelled via the secretive Constitutional Research Council (CRC), whose chair and only known member is Richard Cook.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Under Northern Irish laws in force at the time, the identity of the original donors can remain a secret – even though the cash was not spent in Northern Ireland. But last month the Electoral Commission confirmed it had<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/fresh-concerns-raised-over-dup-s-secret-brexit-donation">&nbsp;fined Richard Cook's CRC for failing to report the DUP donation</a>.</p> <p>openDemocracy has previously revealed that Cook, a Glasgow-based businessman and former vice-chair of the Scottish Conservatives, went into business with<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">&nbsp;a former head of Saudi intelligence</a>&nbsp;and<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">&nbsp;a Dane involved in gun-running in India</a>.</p><p> Both Cook and the DUP have claimed that the Brexit cash came from permissible sources. But our new findings raise fresh questions about the dark money that drove the DUP’s Brexit campaign.</p><h2 dir="ltr">From Clarkston, to Belfast, to Westminster &nbsp;</h2><p>The story of the DUP’s dark money begins far away from the corridors of Westminster or the streets of Belfast, on a stretch of pebble-dash semi-detached houses in the sleepy Glasgow suburb of Clarkston.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span><span><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/zqEeJhxp5pdMPqawdxvlJL5BYO8ooiOBnJUsoPZxih_tbpN578rMqfuqz74QNxHKksfjedBWZBHHyZtnL_I2fejZdSQwiCSmkBItpcYZdYDNDxKL0NwjlLbe4XfSxxeCPDrlGD5K" alt="" width="315" height="232" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Richard Cook once had high hopes of a career in politics. Back in 2010 he was a 38-year-old recycling company director in Clarkston, widely tipped as the next Member of Parliament for East Renfrewshire. Expectation of a Conservative gain from Labour’s Jim Murphy in Glasgow’s ‘stockbroker belt’ was so high that the BBC even sent a film crew to follow Cook’s campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">Cook made much of his environmental credentials. His leaflets talked of “protecting green spaces” and the <a href="http://voterichardcook.blogspot.com/2009/10/day-3-making-difference.html">importance of recycling</a>.<br /><br /><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/kc1MM4rvpVtz84EmIkwNWLrhoz8_HhUGkKA0dtNq4-7ojV5FtIGxVfQKkKnqwI7_zdOq2saHIvl4N_LCBrvUHsoDcu3I5LqiuG3aHXHvrRidfl7gbUyIJEZ9doDiCreFP8ZfHaPp" alt="" width="306" height="303" /> </p><p dir="ltr">He had worked for almost a decade in the accounts department of a major waste management company, Biffa. And in May 2008 he became a founding director of DDR Recycling Limited, a company dealing in the “recovery of sorted materials”, operating out of a small office on an unremarkable industrial estate on the outskirts of Glasgow. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Illegal waste</h2><p>But while Cook was promising to “clean up politics” on doorsteps in East Renfrewshire, his business was very far from environmentally friendly. Email correspondence obtained by openDemocracy suggests that Cook’s company was involved in illegal shipments of waste.</p><p>In April 2009 DDR sent a shipment of ten containers from Felixstowe in England to the Indian port city of Cochin. It was claimed that the shipment contained 250 tonnes of valuable ‘hard rubber crumb’. But on inspection Indian authorities discovered that the containers were filled with scrap tyres, a lucrative – but prohibited – cargo.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/53rYAgEKNxnvBIILfIGRnZDXs8_wJ3dvvISnIJL-AKpP-JPM3bwLXyL-w4SKo1wpXwbktsiMnHkd58pRCACA_qg3HzpsuQoRKzBmEil7IM_jkrVyhLXutyHUPGQ-Hr6lsSEy525AqUB3nZtrWA" alt="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/HI1uG_LYxX624MZeUkYpXKD0XlZX3FpMdsqoMAOPuGMxS8XD1jWfFi0ojVLNTpTEjMBfpR0S3P0udi8hJS7dFEsevLhMvz9eXfPjVeBQ6JyApM8z6o_R-rlQXxscXw7wOgL_Uu1j" width="601" height="481" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In a letter that December, the Environment Agency told Cook and his long-time business partner Donald McCorquodale about this “illegal waste shipment”. The regulator instructed DRR to ship the containers back to the UK, warning, “Failure to comply... may result in formal enforcement action being taken against your company.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/1cENbXLABG6ikxDha6sBqSTUzGUA9o8KW2aadxvC8zQDTdTRZ3Ik_NcndjJTWrPvuhNhMYuJ5NbfyhiwJXYqQM3zJkGuDnTRhGoBJdXouqCexZHhqBN2DntKMY3XyCWbRra_N8NG5jPgMqZ9tQ" alt="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/iOdEVj2NIFCcNMCkOWugmywzFoSDv6yo6z9eQHE-iSqMytydALWTdurvOjVOv92iEW2ilUDvKBRpdE0CxFZRZXLuiodSA0CFKOP-b1qbvWrloAqDn9Z20tw5x40YG6BXmYv4_oxf" width="601" height="468" />&nbsp;</p><p>In January 2010, the Environment Agency again wrote to Cook, saying “I have not received a response to my letter nor any details of your arrangements to effect the return of these containers of waste, as requested.”</p><p dir="ltr">The following day, Cook wrote to the regulator suggesting that the illegal waste could be sold on “to licensed end users in India”. Less than an hour later, the Environment Agency wrote back warning that DDR was not permitted to sell the waste on to a third party or to move it to another country. </p><h2 dir="ltr">“Potentially fraudulent” </h2><p>The Environment Agency contacted Cook again on 23 February, saying that Indian customs had conducted a lab analysis on the rubber and “determined that the material is soft rubber, most likely originating from used vehicle tyres, which means this is an export of waste.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cook responded later that day, telling the regulator that the tests conducted by the Indian authorities in Cochin were “inaccurate” and “potentially fraudulent”. Cook sent the regulator tests that DDR had supposedly done on the material and which found that the rubber was of high quality.</p><p dir="ltr">But the “material authenticity” test results that Cook supplied to the regulator appear to be fake.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the documents that Cook gave the Environment Agency, the tests were conducted by a company called Grapevine Networking Limited. This firm, which was dissolved in 2015, was a recruitment company with an address in the centre of Glasgow run by Cook’s fellow DDR director, Donald McCorquodale.</p><p dir="ltr">McCorquodale, now DDR’s sole director, told openDemocracy: “Grapevine never did any tests on any rubber at all.”</p><p dir="ltr">Asked how test results on Grapevine-headed notepaper could have been sent to the environmental regulator by Richard Cook, McCorquodale said “I have no idea. No idea. Absolutely no idea… it does seem strange but I have no idea at all.”</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy understands that the waste material was eventually shipped from India. McCorquodale told openDemocracy that he did not know what happened to the waste.</p><p dir="ltr">“We shipped the goods under the instruction of an Indian gentleman based in Leicester, we shipped it using the coding he requested,” he said. “That’s as much as we know. We were never involved, we were never asked to attend a court case in India or anything.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">LinkedIn hack...?</h2><p>This was not the only curious exchange between Richard Cook and the Environment Agency. Also in February 2010, McCorquodale forwarded an email to the regulator from a company called Xener Import Export SRL claiming that the company, which had an address in Romania, “acted as an intermediary” with responsibility for the rubber shipment to India.</p><p dir="ltr">On 3 March the environmental regulator wrote to Cook asking if he could “advise me of the precise relationship” between himself and Xener. Cook took a month to respond, saying that he had missed the regulator’s calls as his mobile provider “had archived some messages over the past fortnight, due to excessive call numbers”. But his email did not answer the question about his relationship with Xener.</p><p dir="ltr">At the general election on 6 May 2010, Cook came second in East Renfrewshire, more than 10,000 votes behind Labour’s Jim Murphy. Adding to his woes, on 17 June the Environment Agency wrote again to DDR asking about Cook’s relationship with Xener.</p><p dir="ltr">This time the regulator pointed out that on his LinkedIn page Cook himself claimed to be a director of “Xener Imports/Exports, Romania.” </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Screen Shot 2019-01-05 at 10.53.53.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Screen Shot 2019-01-05 at 10.53.53.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="372" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">“I would be grateful of an explanation of the meaning of this link between Mr Cook, DDR Recycling Limited and Xener Imports/Exports, Romania,” the regulator wrote.</p><p dir="ltr">On 22 June Cook told the regulator that he has “never been a Director of any foreign company and have never had any relationship with Xener Import Export SRL other than the containers they ordered and paid for from DDR Recycling Limited”. Cook said that he had contacted the director of Xener’s parent company using LinkedIn and speculated that the LinkedIn “entry has something to with him”.</p><p dir="ltr">Cook suggested to the regulator that his LinkedIn profile may have been hacked. “I have contacted LinkedIn to establish how a fraudulent entry could be made on my profile,” he wrote. <br /><br />openDemocracy understands that LinkedIn did not receive any complaint from Cook.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Screen Shot 2019-01-05 at 10.52.41.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/Screen Shot 2019-01-05 at 10.52.41.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="341" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>A spokesperson for LinkedIn said: “Our members control the information on their profile and we encourage anyone who thinks there’s an issue with their account to contact us so we can investigate it immediately.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Californian courtroom drama</h2><p>California is a long way from Clarkston. But it was here in 2014 that Cook, McCorquodale, DDR Recycling, a company called DDR Recycling Limited USA and a number of associates were cited as defendants in a case brought before a district court judge.</p><p dir="ltr">International logistics firm UPS filed a lawsuit against Cook and his colleagues after they failed to pay over $450,000 for a shipment of steel wire transported by UPS to Busan, South Korea, in December 2012. </p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/DL-tl09jpL0Uov0l4OORC9tZKwpo0LlTJBUiLUC3qf5o-ZOPII4LmrQSuHMzbS-qw-16m3o_pFXWrcYv9fPCKjDzQcp5Gw_qjf9VITejgIYl_sTL9AWus6Ojus9c_OC_Dakch7djpprzfbKYmQ" alt="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/GEpPjh_Hbj-qwdUt_LjBs2ympPU0xtD1nZCbWWmoQfJu1hDWUJ9Tk23Ot_W6VGeq5JS_PnIHSWBuCFS1zGRXWQ67jrrQ8hHdhF6PCkYfp9Ro5UIBN5agV7uXDQnRntAQiOjJJV3g" width="601" height="349" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">UPS said that Cook and his business associates had made small payments before the South Korean shipment in an an apparent attempt to build up trust with the company. In November 2012, Cook wired $3,315.32 to UPS. “Such payment was for the purpose of inducing UPS to provide additional shipping services to DDR,” court documents state.</p><p dir="ltr">Documents submitted by UPS paint a picture of consistent evasion by the Scottish company’s directors after the shipment was sent to South Korea. After a series of exchanges, in May 2013 a UPS lawyer wrote to McCorquodale “your emails have been non-responsive and appear to be solely for the purpose of delay”.</p><p dir="ltr">“At this point I am not inclined to waste any more of my time or of my client’s money engaging in your dilatory tactics… your emails to date have provided UPS with no pertinent information and only seek additional non-relevant information in a transparent attempt to avoid your debt,” the lawyer added.</p><p><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/lPEtowHTDdfeg4ubr2_eZDmX1A_n-a3uo8QVlH7bwJrhK73iSQzpT3yCBAI6DXWV5-5fPodj5hDcORyShYXjCgzUq8iGZMyKT25qhgfJNfMzue0a8chBl9P4FvjLBSGqi1LKg-b3" alt="" width="602" height="137" />&nbsp;</p><p>Neither Cook nor any of the other DDR Recycling defendants appeared in court or offered a defence. In July 2014 a California district court judge awarded a default judgement of &nbsp;$1,506,586.51 against Cook, McCorquodale, and a number of the company’s associates. A default judgement is issued against a defendant who fails to answer a lawsuit.</p><p dir="ltr">The money owed to UPS does not appear to have been paid. A spokesperson for UPS told openDemocracy, “UPS received a default judgment in that case. The company does not disclose customer information.”</p><p dir="ltr">McCorquodale told openDemocracy: “We had nothing at all to do with it… it was completely nothing to do with the company in the UK, it was a company in California who used our name. Nothing to do with us at all.”<br /><br />“We weren’t pursued for it in the UK because it was a completely fictitious judgement,” McCorquodale added.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Cambodian gold</h2><p>Richard Cook resigned as a director of DDR Recycling Limited in February 2014. The company was put into liquidation in 2017, owing Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs around £150,000. The only current active shareholder is Donald McCorquodale.</p><p dir="ltr">But documents obtained by openDemocracy suggest that DDR Recycling could have $5m in a Cambodian bank account, following the apparent sale of gold nuggets from Tanzania.</p><p dir="ltr">In December 2014, a Tanzanian company named Barax Mining Limited invoiced McCorquodale for the sale of 200 kilograms of gold nuggets, worth exactly $5m. Barax’s invoice listed an address in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/iRloAFVwrIhmk6viIg5vBi95hPYNtfbJyCJFep1yIQ5W0-kqx51gmmSJ8G_ANUqPmgQqLF7TE43797Rj93zf2JpkSBxBAR7OwVBL29mEkivMzJL_U5XbxvQ5cgynx37sQP8i-HgFCjdpqo1stA" alt="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/iM0LXlt1jXUoD_vgSWaOZgeUxO293vK7gsW_9UL0cZasH1HDGcREBBRl1hNlFYQptAZcOji1fWOe0q-wezRQt_QYyIk8fLHV8DDyglmzfSnm7X9WA0aM2_ePyXS3ihJZeGWEx9wE" width="601" height="494" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In March 2015, a Cambodian bank called CIMB wrote to DDR Recycling stating that McCorquodale had $5m on deposit in a Phnom Phen bank account. Screenshots of the company’s Cambodian bank account appear to support this. </p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/4XJjisD5FCBsI7lKUEoHQZoDTaCNpu-5oq1jAVglaYgrp28IBlpQmg8UhGMQAvcSUe28xtMNmldkOQVfqum_sN7QWPhvLel3haKZ9aOyt7KOrS7MqV1sDE_WcTZsYWKWOXFFbsIw" alt="" width="602" height="428" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In January 2015, McCorquodale paid just over $25,000 to the Cambodian ministry of economy and finance as “payment for clearance stamp duty fee”. In May, McCorquodale paid a further $75,000 to the “department of anti-money laundering” of the Cambodian government. A receipt describes this payment as a “clearance fee”.</p><p>Investigations by openDemocracy have yet to identify a “department of anti-money laundering” in the Cambodian government.&nbsp;</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/ASXHUTqlPXya3yVjKwPiXJI5biPS_FPR6ab8YGG2G95-YRpY1oWag08nHpZJ82XwLBd8OEsNJm0NShcFTi_Q-bd0hePPcgcsX9CdLfrYgj6zSIa088EzAIl4hcaa-RUsPq6U1PV6zobRPx97Gg" alt="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/bgz7TbWugTQbEOCyF3fv2eu-rq74B7Um6IlhpS5deorp5kBdw_hxAptek9m0VcAyW4YsS0D7bFg9UGUHc8gt2uCeChHvgaNRnwXqWGBGOK5QIqLIrZnOa1N4hFjAJoMJ4IeNQSGe" width="601" height="376" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">According to Cambodian bank documents, the barrister representing McCorquodale in Phnom Penh was one Tran Thuyen Ly. A few months later a man with the same name was detained in connection with <a href="http://africansuntimes.com/2015/10/n-vietnam-police-hunt-nigerians-accused-of-conning-local-women/">setting up fake bank accounts in Vietnam</a> for Nigerian scammers targeting local women. It is not clear if the barrister and the detainee are one and the same person.</p><p>openDemocracy understands that DDR’s Cambodian bank account is being investigated by the company’s liquidators.</p><p dir="ltr">McCorquodale told openDemocracy that the Cambodian gold sale “was completely a waste of time. We didn’t get any goods and the whole thing was just a complete waste of time.</p><p dir="ltr">“The information about the $5m in Cambodia was reported to the liquidator at the time of the liquidation, they have been pursuing that money. Unsuccessfully as I understand it. So there is nothing more for me to say.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Pakistan plants</h2><p dir="ltr">Since resigning from DDR in 2014, Cook appears to have remained in the waste disposal business. According to his LinkedIn profile, since May 2012 he has been president of international development at a company called <a href="http://swil.ca/">Sentinel Waste Management</a>, based near Toronto.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/2ZiQXkNL7G_aNJPm8F09bx_SwYElv7yrdMRhJ_il88EylVg-oRX0fKCgS3E_yX0sePZeJfylUFgugl706WTB3V03XqJafWx2ctJNRF6RQOArBXFFJjBq1mvk6FGvAzz7kjw6b17Hq81GlfEZiA" alt="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/J6DPRC7rxXtsVbRS52AMU8DrQPKPvY35yY21cJjx_kszJppQ3gcfSA7172XiFK29UJ3DyHWfoTvif6_DF1s0tT-amaBt7FyVwiLjiADueBAXElbeLhRZImycvtDyBOMthgnE2YsA" width="601" height="439" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Sentinel describes its business as eliminating “waste dumping problems with sustainable technology”, principally through diverting waste from landfill by converting it into pellets. But the company appears to have struggled for clients.</p><p dir="ltr">Sentinel has frequently failed to file accounts on time, in breach of Ontario corporate law. It filed all returns from 2011 to 2015 on a single date in 2016, and has not filed anything since that date. According to the Ontario Corporations Information Act, annual returns have to be filed within six months of the end of the last tax year. </p><p><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/BKdoNjHxJj4Z2aRJTmrLXSVGUlTmUg5LuvXjnstw5hIuMyoqa9DyK9mdwX-I74W1Odwu4XpkYPTv-WUTweUrqBRhkphNMgIy8Fe1On_x7yAYl5qYyNY-HLUlpwpCpVpe5hrOa8W29xfs-HpPbg" alt="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/UTldCYB9WOrbb7y1U8eE_MOAmwZMl4GVcpfPd8pLj9ct5_R2raj6orSYyPVVFfDyW5iBUCV8TFRIchrN0Ge1m6rQ61aEfVvrXIiln3zMsI-xvZQ9c5hXZ6iFu2Bffam1s94aHubN" width="601" height="468" />&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Beyond Cook’s LinkedIn page, the only instance openDemocracy found of his name in relation to Sentinel was in the description of a video on the company’s YouTube channel.</p><p dir="ltr">In July 2012, it was widely reported that Sentinel Waste Management had agreed a $1bn deal to deliver environmental projects in Karachi, Pakistan. In a ceremony at Glasgow City Chambers <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-18829302">Cook signed a memorandum of understanding</a> with Pakistani officials to work with the Port Qasim Authority to develop drinking water production facilities through desalination.</p><p dir="ltr">At the time Cook said: "These projects will be extremely significant in developing an infrastructure in Karachi which provides its population with significant environmental and health benefits."</p><p dir="ltr">The Pakistan work does not appear to have gone any further. Peter Gross, the former head of one of the firms reportedly involved, a US-based waste-water treatment firm called Aeromix Systems Inc., expressed surprise that the company had been named in the 2012 agreement with Pakistani officials.</p><p>Gross said that he met Cook once, in Ireland, in 2012. “It was pretty obvious a week after that meeting [that nothing was happening],” he said. “No one returned calls or emails. There was no follow-up.”</p><p dir="ltr">There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing in relation to the proposed Karachi work.</p><h2 dir="ltr">DUP donation: ‘running down the clock’?</h2><p>The exact role of Richard Cook – and the secretive Constitutional Research Council he chairs – in the £435,000 given to the DUP ahead of the Brexit referendum remains unclear.</p><p>Brendan O’Hara MP said: “Where did this money come from and how did it get into the hands of the DUP? And why was it felt necessary to funnel it through the DUP rather than being open and transparent about it? It feeds into that whole narrative about secrecy, transparency, the undermining of accepted norms and processes of fighting elections and referendums.”</p><p dir="ltr">O’Hara added: “My concern is that in the crisis that we are wading through at the moment, Mr Cook thinks that he can run down the clock on this and somehow it will be forgotten and I sincerely hope that our committee don’t forgot it.”</p><p dir="ltr">Labour MP Ian Murray echoed calls for Cook to appear before the DCMS committee:</p><p>“At a time when our politics is under extensive scrutiny with regards to the breaking of the electoral rules from the Leave campaign, we need as much transparency as possible to have confidence in our electoral system,” the Edinburgh South MP said.</p><p dir="ltr">“It is in the interest of Mr Cook, the DUP and the Electoral Commission for the appropriate people – including Mr Cook – to appear before the appropriate committee to answer these questions. By continuing not to appear before the committee to answer the questions, people will be suspicious that our electoral system is not as robust as it should be, particularly on the back of all the questions that have been posed about the 2016 EU referendum.”</p><p dir="ltr">Jackson Carlaw, second in command at the Scottish Conservatives and a frequent campaigner for Cook during his election bids, has also said that the CRC chief <a href="https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16881792.scottish-tory-deputy-leader-calls-for-disclosure-of-donors-in-dark-money-row/">should reveal where the DUP cash came from</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP’s Brexit donation money – almost ten times more than the party had spent on 2015 general election – was mainly spent on lavish pro-Brexit advertising in the final days before the Brexit vote. More than half of the cash was splashed on a wraparound advert in Metro, a newspaper which does not circulate in Northern Ireland.</p><p dir="ltr">As well as the Metro advert, the DUP also spent money on online campaigning with the Canadian data analytics firm, Aggregate IQ, used by the official Vote Leave campaign. This spending was permitted but has raised concerns of co-ordination between different pro-Brexit groups .Undeclared co-ordination is illegal. Vote Leave have already been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/17/vote-leave-fined-and-reported-to-police-by-electoral-commission-brexit">fined and referred to the police</a> for co-ordinating with another pro-Brexit group</p><p dir="ltr">Under British electoral law, parties need to know the source of their donations. But last year DUP treasurer Gregory Campbell told a journalist from investigative website SourceMaterial that it was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex">not his responsibility to check out Cook and the CRC</a>. An investigation by <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299">BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight team</a> also raised serious questions about Cook’s business dealings.</p><p dir="ltr">Someone named Richard Cook also recently appeared in WhatsApp group containing members of the hardline pro-Brexit European Research Group, to which the CRC also donated money.</p><p dir="ltr">On 12 December 2018, the day of the unsuccessful no-confidence vote in Theresa May, Cook hailed the “outstanding leadership of Brexit” by Steve Baker, the Conservative MP who was head of the ERG before he became a minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union. Baker resigned his ministerial post last July.&nbsp;</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/0kOlUOaU1rytu056kvH9jwJKddvmKxcrWwEQAG1mkESOyu5hg7cWjaCFmAmoBDUEtwCSgALAji06xESStcUPG4R5RjVtTlHrYhfxgBEXO0FFhnKoiFrawxkyHW-1fPyQWW8R1jT34MOfpzEMcA" alt="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/ZvgySg-f9dgdQjvNwYiiUtQm1RMhMGU3aOIuT1KtFkROGpEV6JyFtGW36oBcImkpP0JJOBCBxGg2KnbLOzGWzDRTm2SUGIUgthLpfbmWW0FXNXy_fwoVwjQ6IKhWbe0uX1Wfpv8_" width="468" height="466" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission has so far<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex"> declined calls to launch a full investigation</a> into the source of the DUP’S Brexit cash.<a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-46607265"> Judicial proceedings have been proposed</a>&nbsp;against the regulator’s decision not to investigate the handling of the donation.</p><p>The lawyer acting for Richard Cook denies any wrongdoing in his business dealings. Peter Watson said that while his client would not respond in detail, any claims suggesting wrongdoing by his former waste management company DDR were baseless and actionable.</p><p dir="ltr">Mr Cook told the Sunday Herald: “The CRC is regulated by the Electoral Commission. We operate solely in the UK. We accept donations only from eligible UK donors. We donate solely to permissible UK entities. Any suggestion that we have done anything else is basically defamatory. I’m not going to get into the donors, like I am not going to get into the members.”</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP said the party has been “open and transparent” about the CRC donation.</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesman said: “The DUP is well aware of its responsibilities and has complied with the regulations as set out by the Electoral Commission. If we failed to comply we would be subject to further investigation.</p><p>“In the interests of transparency we have provided information into the public domain which we were not legally obliged to provide. There is no additional information provided to the Electoral Commission that we have failed to publish.”</p><p><em>Additional reporting on this story by <a href="https://twitter.com/DrewMay_">Drew May</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £435,000 DUP Brexit donation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">Democratic Unionist Party Brexit campaign manager admits he didn’t know about its mysterious donor’s links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">The strange link between the DUP Brexit donation and a notorious Indian gun running trial</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Secretive DUP Brexit donor links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex">How the Electoral Commission turned blind eye to DUP&#039;s shady Brexit cash</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement">Mystery deepens over secret source of Brexit &#039;dark money&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/tory-ministers-taxpayer-cash-hard-Brexit-erg">MPs demand ‘urgent investigation’ into Cabinet ministers&#039; support for hard-Brexit lobby group</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> India </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK India United States Democracy and government Democratic Unionist Party investigations Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Sat, 05 Jan 2019 20:50:58 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 121191 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fresh concerns raised over DUP’s secret Brexit donation https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/fresh-concerns-raised-over-dup-s-secret-brexit-donation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Caroline Lucas MP calls on UK watchdog to ‘re-open investigation’, after new evidence suggests ‘deeply irresponsible’ initial inquiry</p><div></div> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/594a94581500001f008ff7c0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/594a94581500001f008ff7c0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Caroline Lucas with DUP MPs. Image, parliament.tv</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">I’m a journalist. It’s my job to ask questions of powerful people. If I just wrote down their answers, without doing much to check whether they were true, and then reported them as facts, I would soon be unemployed.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet it appears this is what the UK Electoral Commission – the body tasked with protecting the integrity of our elections – has just done during its ‘investigation’ of a controversial, secret Brexit donation.</p><p>Let me explain.</p><p dir="ltr">In April, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/peter-geoghegan">Peter Geoghegan</a> and I went to Belfast. We wanted to find out more about <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">a mysterious £435,000 donation</a> to Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which had bankrolled lavish pro-Brexit advertising in the final days before the knife-edge EU referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission is supposed to know where the money came from, and to check that the source is legal. But the donation is covered by an archaic Northern Irish secrecy law, under which they are banned from telling the public the source of the cash.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite this, we’d managed to find some things out. The donation was ten times more than the DUP spent on the previous Northern Irish elections – and almost none of it was spent in Northern Ireland. After pressure from our investigation, the DUP was forced to reveal that the money was funnelled to them via a secretive front group run by a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Scottish Tory called Richard Cook</a>. This was not a man who had half a million quid hiding under his mattress. So: where did the cash really come from?</p><p dir="ltr">When we arrived in Belfast, we’d already shown that Richard Cook set up a company in 2013 with the former head of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">Saudi intelligence</a> and a man who admitted to us that he was involved in running hundreds of Kalashnikovs to a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">radical Hindu group</a> in West Bengal in 1995. We’d already uncovered that Richard Cook had been <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/substantial-fine-linked-to-dup-s-secret-brexit-donors">fined for breaking the law</a> over failing to disclose the source(s) of the DUP’s cash to the Electoral Commision.</p><p dir="ltr">While we were there, the Northern Irish Electoral Commission told us something new. They said they now knew where the money had come from, and that it was legal. This was a bucket of cold water on a story that had started to catch fire.</p><p dir="ltr">But there has always been a part of me that’s been a bit sceptical. What resource had the Commission really put into checking where this cash came from? Had they just asked the DUP and Cook, and believed their answers?</p><p dir="ltr">Shortly after our trip, BBC Spotlight in Northern Ireland <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299">broadcast their investigation</a> into the same story. They had traced Richard Cook’s businesses to industrial scale fly-tipping in South East Asia and a bizarre deal involving hundreds of tonnes of fictional railway tracks in Ukraine. My scepticism only grew. What had the Commission actually done to check this man’s claims about where he got the cash?</p><p dir="ltr">This week, we got the beginnings of an answer to that question. The Good Law Centre has taken the Electoral Commission to court, arguing that they should reopen the investigation into this donation. As part of the process, the Commission has written to Jolyon Maugham QC, outlining the extent of their investigations so far, and he shared the letter with us. It is, of course, impossible to prove a negative – it’s impossible to be sure the Commission haven’t done things they don’t mention, and some of the language in their letter is vague. But let me give you some samples.</p><p dir="ltr">Describing their investigation of the Democratic Unionist Party, the Commission says that, on 14 September 2016:</p><p dir="ltr">“The DUP told us how long it has been aware of the CRC [the organisation fronted by Richard Cook] and its work, that it had confirmed the CRC was a multi-member organisation and that the CRC responded to letters sent to the address it gave the party. The party confirmed that it was satisfied that the CRC was a permissible donor.”</p><p>But it was never in doubt whether the CRC was a permissible donor, nor whether Richard Cook lives where he says he does. I’ve been to his house, I know he does. The question at the heart of this story is who gave the money to the CRC, and whether they are allowed to donate to political causes.</p><p dir="ltr">The note does address that question too, sort of. It says that, after the CRC initially failed to declare where it had got its cash from, it did then deliver “the notifications that were due”, and that the Commission “verified that the funders of the CRC were permissible sources”.</p><p dir="ltr">But here’s the thing. It’s not at all clear that the Commission did anything in this process which didn’t involve asking the DUP and the CRC where this cash came from, and then believing their answer. It seems as though they simply asked the Richard Cook “who gave you this money?” and then, when they got a name, checked that the person named was on the Electoral Register.</p><p dir="ltr">If they used their legal status to demand evidence – bank transfers of cheque stubs, for example – then they don’t say so. The Commission <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/199703/April-2016-Enforcement-Policy.pdf">has the right</a> to request inspection warrants and require people to attend statutory interviews, where it’s a criminal offence to fail to answer questions. If they used these powers to gather the sort of proof that journalists can’t demand, then they don’t say so in their letter. And you’d have thought, given that this letter is their attempt to argue that the case shouldn’t be re-opened, that they would tell us if they had used these powers.</p><p dir="ltr">The letter also reveals for the first time that the person within the DUP who is said to have checked out the permissibility of the donation is their Brexit campaign manager, Jeffrey Donaldson MP. Yet, in February last year, after the Commission’s supposed investigation, Donaldson even <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">told us</a> that he believed (wrongly) that he didn’t need to know where the CRC got the cash. </p><p>The following month, I went to Donaldson’s office and asked him, on camera, whether he knew about Cook’s connection to the former head of Saudi intelligence – information I’d found in half an hour of looking through his business history on the Company’s House website. He admitted that he hadn’t known about that. Here’s our conversation:</p><p>&nbsp; <iframe allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/nApi-ZZ7l-s" height="315" width="560"></iframe> </p><p dir="ltr">I’ve now asked the Electoral Commission whether they had done anything more than asking Cook and the DUP about the donations, and then believing their answers. As ever in this case, their response was hobbled by the law which still bans them from talking about the donation. Their spokesperson said:</p><p dir="ltr">“In relation to donations made to the DUP, as with all our work, we have carried out our compliance and enforcement duties to the highest standards, proactively and with as much transparency as the law allows.</p><p dir="ltr">“We are disappointed that the law continues to restrict us from providing the public with information on donations reported to us before July 2017. Transparency is key to public confidence in the democratic process and this example further underlines the need for transparency rules to be extended to 2014.”</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, that’s right. In 2014, the government changed the law so that some day, information about all donations to Northern Irish parties from 2014 onwards could be published. It is Theresa May, who just happens to rely on the DUP’s votes to keep her in power, who still <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-mary-fitzgerald/why-is-northern-ireland-office-protecting-dups-dirty-little">refuses to allow that information to come out</a>.</p><p>Responding to these latest developments, Caroline Lucas MP has called on the Electoral Commission to “urgently reopen its investigation and use its powers to demand concrete evidence of where these significant donations came from."</p><p dir="ltr">"This is about protecting the integrity of our democracy”, she added: “The Electoral Commission itself has already admitted Leave campaigners broke the law ahead of the 2016 referendum. So for them to simply take the DUP and Constitutional Research Council at their word is deeply irresponsible.”</p><p dir="ltr">My colleagues and I have spent two years <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/dup-dark-money">investigating who bankrolls British politics</a>. We have laws in this country which are supposed to make getting the answers to those questions easy. But the reality is starkly different.</p><p>The government urgently needs to give the Electoral Commission greater resourcing and powers to uphold and enforce the laws of our elections and referendums. Because without full transparency, there is no democracy.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">Democratic Unionist Party Brexit campaign manager admits he didn’t know about its mysterious donor’s links to the Saudi intelligence service</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/did-dups-controversial-brexit-donors-break-law-by-refusing-">Did the DUP&#039;s controversial Brexit donors break the law – by refusing to reveal the secret source of their cash?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">The strange link between the DUP Brexit donation and a notorious Indian gun running trial</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement">Mystery deepens over secret source of Brexit &#039;dark money&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit DUP DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Wed, 19 Dec 2018 15:47:45 +0000 Adam Ramsay 121069 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: Arron Banks Brexit campaign's 'secret' meetings with Cambridge Analytica https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-arron-banks-brexit-campaign-had-more-meetings-w <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Leaked emails show Leave.EU misled parliament and UK regulator about meetings with controversial Trump-linked firm – where they discussed targeting British voters. Steve Bannon was included in correspondence.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cambridge Analytica/SCL's Alexander Nix. Image, Sam Barnes. CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks’s Brexit campaign discussed ‘micro-targeting’ British voters during previously undisclosed meetings with Cambridge Analytica, openDemocracy can reveal, raising fresh concerns about ‘psychographic warfare technology’ used to target voters in the run up to the 2016 EU referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Leave.EU told the UK Information Commissioner’s Office that it held only four meetings with Cambridge Analytica. Earlier this year, Banks also claimed to MPs that his Leave.EU campaign only “had two or three meetings” with Cambridge Analytica and had never paid the data analytics firms for any work. <br /><br />But emails obtained by openDemocracy suggest that Banks’s Brexit campaign had additional meetings with the controversial data analytics firm, which they did not disclose either to parliament or to the information regulator, and in which they discussed in detail how to target British voters. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Former <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/brexit-bankroller-arron-banks-cambridge-analytica-and-steve-bannon-expl">Trump adviser Steve Bannon</a> was included in some of the email correspondence seen by openDemocracy, as was a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/30/revealed-ukip-whistleblowers-raised-fears-about-breitbart-influence-on-brexit">former UKIP party secretary</a> linked to Robert Mercer, the Trump-supporting hedge fund billionaire who controlled Cambridge Analytica.</p><p dir="ltr">Topics discussed at these meetings included fundraising for Leave.EU and how to build sophisticated target audiences for pro-Brexit adverts on Facebook, similar to those used by the Trump campaign.</p><p>In evidence presented to <a href="https://ico.org.uk/media/2260277/investigation-into-the-use-of-data-analytics-in-political-campaigns-20181107.pdf">the Information Commissioner</a>, Leave.EU said that its final meeting with Cambridge Analytica took place on January 8 2016. But later that month, an email seen by openDemocracy discussed Banks’s campaign “using [Cambridge Analytica] and staging the contract.”</p><p dir="ltr">Damian Collins, chair of the UK parliament’s fake news inquiry, said: “I can’t think of any sort of relationship between a supplier and an organisation which would involve so many meetings over such a long time which neither side regards as working together, and which neither expect to get paid for it, and both sides seem so adamant in denying.”</p><p dir="ltr">Data protection expert Paul-Olivier Dehaye said that the email exchanges suggested that Leave.EU had “used psychographic warfare technology” to target voters based on psychological traits across a range of social media in the run-up to the Brexit vote. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The undisclosed meetings raise fresh questions about Banks’s Brexit campaign. The National Crime Agency is currently investigating whether Banks is the “true source” of more than £8m worth of donations made in his name to Leave groups.</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica was closed down earlier this year after being accused of harvesting data from of tens of millions of Facebook users’ data and employing “black ops” to influence elections around the world. openDemocracy last month revealed that Banks’s Leave.EU operation built up a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/revealed-arron-banks-s-staff-crunched-millions-of-voters-data-after-brexit-vote">database of tens of millions</a> of UK voters ahead of the 2016 referendum.</p><h2>Undisclosed meetings – and ‘Target Audience Analysis’</h2><p>Leave.EU and Cambridge Analytica held an introductory meeting on October 23 2015. The final meeting between the two camps took place on January 8 2016, according to a recent ICO report that found <a href="https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/2260271/investigation-into-the-use-of-data-analytics-in-political-campaigns-final-20181105.pdf">“no evidence</a> of a working relationship between CA and Leave.EU proceeding beyond this initial phase.”</p><p dir="ltr">But there were additional meetings between Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU that were not disclosed to the information regulator. </p><p>On October 30, 2015 a Cambridge Analytica staffer sent an email saying that “two members of your data team will be at our offices for an exchange session on Tuesday”. Among the email’s recipients were Arron Banks, his associate Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU chief Liz Bilney, Cambridge Analytica’s Alexander Nix and Steve Bannon.</p><p dir="ltr">On December 5 2015, Julian Wheatland, then chief operating officer of Cambridge Analytica’s UK parent company SCL group, wrote to Leave.EU’s chief Liz Bilney saying “thanks for coming in to see us yesterday.”</p><p dir="ltr">Wheatland says that Cambridge Analytica will conduct Target Audience Analysis (TAA) on behalf Leave.EU. TAA involves the identifying groups that exist in society, and targeting messages that resonate with them. Unlike traditional advertising, the key in TAA is that individuals self-identify their psychological traits, often through their online behaviour, says data expert Paul-Olivier Dehaye.</p><p dir="ltr">SCL and Cambridge Analytica were involved in TAA everywhere from <a href="http://www.jwc.nato.int/images/stories/threeswords/TAA.pdf">Afghanistan</a> to the successful 2016 Trump campaign. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 19.46.26.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 19.46.26.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Wheatland told Leave.EU CEO Bilney that Cambridge Analytica company would “start digital outreach and a program of voter engagement and fundraising,” primarily on Facebook.</p><p dir="ltr">“[F]ollowing our discussion yesterday on the way you are using Facebook… it occured to me that you may like us to take over you (sic) current list-building activity in the interim,” Wheatland wrote. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The email also suggests a meeting was due to take place “with Arron (Banks) on Tuesday”. The following Tuesday was December 8 2015.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">These were not the only proposed meetings discussed by Leave.EU and Cambridge Analytica staff not disclosed to the Information Commissioner.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><h2>‘Staging the contract’</h2><p dir="ltr">On January 25 2016, Matthew Richardson, a lawyer and former UKIP party secretary with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/14/robert-mercer-cambridge-analytica-leave-eu-referendum-brexit-campaigns">links to the Mercers</a>, wrote to Wheatland saying that Banks and Wigmore have asked “if they can reschedule for Friday”. Steve Bannon is also included in this email.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 19.59.14.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 19.59.14.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="237" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33145753">Richardson</a>, a former executive director of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/mar/06/tory-madrasa-young-britons-foundation">rightwing Young Britons Foundation</a>, has been cited as the person who introduced Leave.EU to Cambridge Analytica. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/14/robert-mercer-cambridge-analytica-leave-eu-referendum-brexit-campaigns">According to the Guardian</a>, Andy Wigmore said: “We had a guy called Matthew Richardson who’d known Nigel for a long time and he’s always looked after the Mercers”.</p><p dir="ltr">Richardson also suggests that Leave.EU intended to hire Cambridge Analytica. “[Banks and Wigmore] would like to talk about using the service and staging the contract, so that the bulk of it is done after the Electoral Commission designation,” he wrote.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks and Wigmore have previously said that Leave.EU decided not to hire Cambridge Analytica and that only preliminary work was done, for free. Wigmore told the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr that the Mercers – who backed Trump and controlled Cambridge Analytica – had been “happy to help” Leave.EU.</p><p dir="ltr">There are hints of further meetings, too. On December 17, Leave.EU’s head of research Pierre Shepherd wrote to Cambridge Analytica staff asking “do you still plan to come next week?”. There was no record of a meeting around this time in the evidence given by Leave.EU to the Information Commissioner.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 20.02.56.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 20.02.56.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h2>The UKIP connection</h2><p><br /><span>Earlier this year, Brittany Kaiser, former Cambridge Analytica’s business development director, said the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/23/cambridge-analytica-misled-mps-over-work-for-leave-eu-says-ex-director-brittany-kaiser">work with Leave.EU involved analysis of data provided by UKIP</a>. Banks has denied this.</span></p><p dir="ltr">Emails seen by openDemocracy suggest Cambridge Analytica sought to access raw data about UKIP supporters collected by academics. On October 29 2015, a Cambridge Analytica staffer wrote to Matthew Richardson asking “if you can connect us to Matthew Goodwin, who is the academic that conducted the referendum survey with your members? He should have the raw data from that, which will be very helpful for us."</p><p>A few minutes later Richardson replied: "I have already spoken to Matt Goodwin and the data is incoming."</p><p>Goodwin told openDemocracy that the data referred to in this exchange was a UKIP membership survey included in a co-authored academic book. “To my knowledge this [data] was never shared although a presentation was given to the party, multiple academic conferences and then published in the book,” Goodwin said.</p><p dir="ltr">Separately, the Information Commissioner’s Office issued an information notice against UKIP for failing to hand over details of use of data analytics during the Brexit referendum.</p><h2>‘Questions that now need answering’</h2><p><br />Commenting on openDemocracy’s latest revelations, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “Once again it seems the Leave campaign has not been open about its activities, in this case the extent of its contacts with Cambridge Analytica. </p><p dir="ltr">“This strengthens the argument for the UK to have our own Mueller style judicial inquiry to examine and get to the bottom of all the allegations that have dogged pro Brexit campaigners.”<br /><br />Liberal Democrat Tom Brake said: “The evidence points very clearly to much more frequent contact between Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU than has been admitted. <br /><br />“The question that now needs answering is ‘why have the contacts between CA and Leave.EU been under-reported and what do they have to hide? This affair gets murkier and murkier, casting yet more doubt over the validity of the referendum result.” </p><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore have so far not responded to openDemocracy’s request for comment. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/brexit-bankroller-arron-banks-cambridge-analytica-and-steve-bannon-expl">Brexit bankroller Arron Banks, Cambridge Analytica and Steve Bannon – explosive emails reveal fresh links</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/revealed-arron-banks-s-staff-crunched-millions-of-voters-data-after-brexit-vote">Revealed: Arron Banks’s staff crunched millions of voters’ data after Brexit vote</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Steve Bannon Cambridge Analytica Arron Banks Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Wed, 19 Dec 2018 11:34:24 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 121050 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Dark money investigations: what we’ve found out, and why we’re looking https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/dark-money-investigations-what-we-ve-found-out-and-why-we-re-looking <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For the past two years openDemocracy has been tracking down the secretive, wealthy donors trying to influence British politics unseen.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Arron Banks Nigel Farage_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Arron Banks Nigel Farage_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks with Nigel Farage: two of "the bad boys of Brexit". Image, Ben Birchall/PA Archive/PA Images</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">It started with the Democratic Unionist Party. We forced them to confess that a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">huge Brexit donation</a> had come via a secretive group in Glasgow. We showed that the chair of that group was connected to the former <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service">head of Saudi intelligence</a> and to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens">a Danish man involved</a> in gun-running in India. </p><p dir="ltr">We travelled round Northern Ireland and the west of Scotland, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/democratic-unionist-party-brexit-campaign-manager-admits-he-didn-t-kn">banging on doors</a> and meeting sources, but were blocked at every turn. BBC Northern Ireland picked up the story and <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299">followed it to Kiev</a>. We still don’t know for sure where this cash came from, but we did help force a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/opendemocracy-has-forced-change-in-law-on-dark-money-but-we-still-need-to-do-more">change in the law</a>, so this could never happen again.</p><p dir="ltr">Then there were the Scottish Tories. We showed that a huge portion of their surge in 2016 was <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dark-money-driving-scottish-tory-surge">funded by money</a> from secretive sources, and eventually got one of those <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/major-scottish-tory-donors-fined-over-illegal-donation">groups fined</a>. An independent Scottish media organisation, The Ferret, <a href="https://theferret.scot/secretive-trust-scottish-tories-dark-money/">followed our story</a>, and forced an Electoral Commission investigation. And it’s not just the Scottish Tories. We exposed one of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/how-dark-money-is-drowning-british-democracy">key loopholes</a> allowing dark money to flood into the Labour Party, UKIP and the Lib Dems too.</p><p dir="ltr">And then there was “<a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/10/arron-banks-man-who-bought-brexit">the man who bought Brexit</a>”, Arron Banks. Did the millions he poured into the Leave campaigns really come from his own pockets? We showed that he didn’t appear to be nearly as rich as he claimed: it was hard to understand how he could have afforded his lavish donations. We worked with accountants to show his insurance businesses were verging on bankruptcy at the time of the referendum, and with a reporter in Lesotho to show that his diamond mines didn’t have many diamonds. </p><h2 dir="ltr">The Bannon emails</h2><p dir="ltr">We got our hands on emails from Banks showing that he’d asked Steve Bannon – advisor to Donald Trump, founder of Breitbart News and vice-president of Cambridge Analytica – for help fundraising in the US. We met sources who showed that he’d lied to Parliament, and then, when asked about our story on the BBC, that he’d lied again.</p><p dir="ltr">We looked at how the Brexit money was spent, showing how several supposedly independent campaigns used the same obscure merchandise company based at the end of a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">terraced row in Ely</a> (and yes, we went to Ely). We explained how <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica</a> itself is the result of the privatisation of military propaganda, and we examined the terrifying connections between the Brexit campaign and Britain’s growing role as the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">global hub of mercenary firms</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Our story on Darren Grimes, the 22-year-old given a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">£675,000 donation</a> by Vote Leave, triggered the court case which led to the conclusion that Vote Leave <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/high-court-found-that-vote-leave-broke-law-in-different-way">broke the law</a> and to the campaign being referred to the police. We then revealed that the police <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">waited months</a> before bothering to collect the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/revealed-met-police-ignored-brexit-campaign-evidence-for-month">key documents</a> relating to the case.</p><p dir="ltr">We investigated a group called Veterans for Britain, who had also taken a large donation from Vote Leave, and exposed <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">connections</a> to the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">expanding network</a> of privatised military and intelligence contractors – including the mercenary military propaganda firm SCL, and its subsidiary, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">We were one of the first outlets to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">seriously</a> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/mps-demand-full-investigation-of-hard-brexit-backing-tory-party-within-par">investigate</a> the European Research Group. We showed how they were set up to turn the UK into “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/tory-ministers-taxpayer-cash-hard-Brexit-erg">a low-tax, offshore haven</a>”, that they were funded from the public purse and that they had members who <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">were ministers</a> – in breach of the ministerial code. We were the first outlet to disclose their membership, and that they’ve had an office in the Houses of Parliament since the 1990s. And that they got a donation via the same secret group who funnelled cash to the DUP.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Weird interests</h2><p dir="ltr">As Brexit ministers came and went, we investigated them, too. We showed <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">Steve Baker</a>’s web of weird interests, including that he took thousands of pounds from an arms company whilst sitting as vice-chair of the group lobbying for the arms industry in Parliament, and how he’s got longstanding links to the American radical right. When he stood down, we showed how his replacement, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab</a>, was moulded as a politician by the dark-money ‘think tank’ the Institute for Economic Affairs.</p><p dir="ltr">Which takes us to Britain’s dark-money-funded think tanks. We showed how a staff member for a group called the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum Institute</a>, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-legatum-s-extraordinary-secretive-monthly-meetings-with-brexit">connected to</a> a hedge fund in Dubai and owned by a disaster capitalist who made a fortune from the collapsing Soviet Union, had <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">unprecedented access</a> to government ministers during the Brexit process, despite the fact that no one is sure who is paying his wages. And when he took a job with a private lobbying agency despite sitting on Liam Fox’s committee of advisors, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal">our story</a> forced him to resign from that committee.</p><p dir="ltr">Our work has run in parallel to – and often intersected with – that of others: <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/profile/carolecadwalladr">Carole Cadwalladr</a> is, of course, the icon. </p><p dir="ltr">But here’s the bottom line. People have different interests and ideas, and politics is a negotiation between them. We are not investigating the dark money in British politics either because we are for Brexit or because we are against it. We are investigating dark money because the rich and powerful will always hide selfish demands behind the language of ideology and policy wonkery. They hide their political donations because they don’t want us to know that what their representatives say is paid-for propaganda. If we are to have an open and honest conversation about the future of the country, we first need to understand where everyone is really coming from, what people’s interests really are.</p><p dir="ltr">And that means we need to keep shining a light into the dark money poisoning our democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">So please, contribute to <a href="https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/expose-the-dark-money-driving-brexit?utm_campaign=nov2018&amp;utm_medium=website&amp;utm_source=articletext">our appeal</a>, so we can keep striving for an open democracy.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The &#039;dark money&#039; that paid for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Arron Banks Brexit investigations Democratic Unionist Party Conservative Party DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Mon, 03 Dec 2018 16:45:17 +0000 Adam Ramsay 120818 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Right-wing think tank accused of promoting tobacco and oil industry “propaganda” in schools https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/right-wing-think-tank-accused-of-promoting-tobacco-oil-indu <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Institute of Economic Affairs’ magazine distributed to tens of thousands of British schoolchildren promotes tobacco tax cuts, climate change denial, tax havens, and privatising the NHS – but doesn’t say where its money comes from </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/11443527473_d1730c4b4e_o_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/11443527473_d1730c4b4e_o_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="337" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Economic Affairs” published an article arguing against the scientific consensus on climate change. Image, Quarrie Photography.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Institute of Economic Affairs has been accused of “pumping seemingly paid-for propaganda” into schools after analysis by openDemocracy found that its free magazine for A-Level students has carried articles arguing against tobacco taxes and climate change science, and in favour of NHS privatisation. The magazine does not tell readers who funds the IEA. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA, a registered educational charity, sends copies of the magazine <a href="https://iea.org.uk/ea-magazine/">EA</a> free of charge to every school teaching A-Level economics or business studies in the UK. </p><p dir="ltr">The influential ‘think tank’ does not disclose its funding but it has received money from <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/jun/01/thinktanks-big-tobacco-funds-smoking">British American Tobacco</a>, <a href="https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2018/07/30/bp-funding-institute-of-economic-affairs-gambling/">oil giant BP</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/31/jersey-finance-paid-iea-to-trash-hotbeds-of-tax-evasion-claims">Jersey Finance</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/30/casino-owners-donated-iea-after-thinktanks-pro-gambling-report">gambling</a> lobbyists and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">right wing US foundations</a> pushing to privatise the NHS. While articles on many of these topics have appeared in the IEA’s schools magazine, it does not disclose these financial links. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA has also argued that Brexit could be a boon for Britain. Its head of international trade, Shanker Singham, recently accompanied pro-Brexit MPs including David Davis on a <a href="https://www.fginsight.com/news/ex-brexit-secretary-lobbies-washington-for-trade-deal-beneficial-to-us-farmers--74921">trade tour to the US</a>, talking up American access to UK markets. </p><p dir="ltr">A shadow cabinet minister has called for the Charity Commission to broaden its <a href="https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/charity-commission-assessing-concerns-over-think-thank-iea-after-guardian-investigation.html">ongoing probe of the IEA</a> to include the schools magazine.</p><p dir="ltr">Labour shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett said: “It is a debasement of both politics and education when an organisation, posing as a charity, pumps seemingly paid-for propaganda into our schools. </p><p dir="ltr">“In the interests of transparency and democracy, we need to know who funds these organisations and what exactly their purpose is. Because what they say, and what they actually do, too often simply doesn’t match up.” </p><p dir="ltr">Tamasin Cave from Spinwatch, which investigates the PR and lobbying industry, said "we are now awake to the fact that the IEA is not an independent think tank. It is a lobby group for private interests. Most are secret, but we know it is funded by oil giants, the tobacco industry and a tax haven. </p><p dir="ltr">“The IEA’s magazine provides a means for these people to feed their propaganda into schools, whether that’s climate change denial, or opposition to public health policies. Just as the public are exposed to it through the IEA appearing on the BBC.”</p><p dir="ltr">When asked by openDemocracy how the magazine was funded, the IEA would only say that the think tank covered the costs of the <a href="http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends51/0000235351_AC_20161231_E_C.PDF">47,000</a> copies sent to students every year. The think tank’s funders are not disclosed publicly, however it denies that its editorial content is driven by its donors interests.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Opposing tobacco taxes… and funded by a tobacco company</h2><p dir="ltr">Since 2013, the IEA’s magazine has frequently featured articles arguing in favour of positions supported by groups that have been shown to fund the right-wing think tank. The spring 2014 edition, for example, includes an article <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EA-Spring-soundbite-SMALL_0.pdf">arguing against</a> “sin taxes", including those on cigarettes and alcohol. <br /><br />The magazine does not mention that the IEA receives regular donations from <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs#2015_.22Broadly_Similar_Basis_to_2014.22">British American Tobacco</a>, including roughly £40,000 <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs#2015_.22Broadly_Similar_Basis_to_2014.22">in 2014</a>. The group also has links with the <a href="https://iea.org.uk/events/exiting-the-eu-reclaiming-trade-sovereignty/">sugar industry</a>, and has argued against sugar taxes.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Climate change denial… and funded by BP </h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/8735887323_697b6d9039_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/8735887323_697b6d9039_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dust cloud. Image, Zooey, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In autumn 2013, the magazine <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EA-Autumn-soundbiite-lores.pdf">ran an article by Roger Bate</a> entitled “20 years denouncing eco-militants”, in which he argued that “evidence of climate impact is still hard to prove, and harm even more difficult to establish”, and dismissed calls for a ban on the insecticide DDT as “green alarmism”. </p><p dir="ltr">These are not the only subjects in which Bate has swum against the tide of scientific consensus. In the late 1990s, while he was <a href="https://www.industrydocumentslibrary.ucsf.edu/tobacco/docs/#id=grfn0073">funded by the tobacco industry</a>, Bate argued against the science which shows that exposure to tobacco causes cancer. In the words of The Ecologist, he also “<a href="https://theecologist.org/2018/sep/19/secret-love-affair-between-roger-bate-and-big-tobacco">midwived British climate denial</a>”. </p><p dir="ltr">The magazine did not inform its student readers that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists believe that evidence of climate impact and harm are both proved. Likewise, the magazine did not inform the pupils that Bate’s employer, the American Enterprise Institute, has long been <a href="https://exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=9">funded by ExxonMobile</a>, while the Institute for Economics Affairs itself is funded by <a href="https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2018/07/30/bp-funding-institute-of-economic-affairs-gambling/">British Petroleum</a>. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Promoting privatisations and tax havens</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Elizabeth_Castle_in_front_of_Noirmont,_Isle_of_Jersey_(2006)_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Elizabeth_Castle_in_front_of_Noirmont,_Isle_of_Jersey_(2006)_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="283" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Elizabeth Castle, Jersey. Image, Luc Van Braekel, wikimedia commons.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Articles written by IEA staffer Kristian Niemietz in several editions advocate privatisation of the NHS. But at no point does the magazine mention that in 2014, the think tank received a grant of $155,000 from the US-based Templeton Foundation to “<a href="https://templeton.org/grant/encouraging-independence-and-enterprise-for-a-healthy-old-age">seek alternatives</a>” to “public, pay-as-you-go financed systems of pensions, disability insurance, healthcare and long-term care”, and promote privatisation of each of these areas, according to the Templeton Foundation's website. Niemietz was one of two project leaders for the grant.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;<span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/hzJiChO7ZTFsqLjy9DBAFbo8TAJIcCl5fwE82GwtMJzDSeYGXon8-pcH51E45-VunX1R44Cjsih60ZKrrK9Ov57z7yyGRXaYIJFrB6HC8q4GCqwk7lw26VK-1z9bVq-7WV-pK0o6" alt="" width="427" height="302" /></span></p><p dir="ltr">The glossy 64-page magazine has also called for the <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EA-Spring-2015_CITY-VIEW.pdf">BBC</a> to be privatised.<br /><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/UNPsmHt7luGsfv64YcBIoMM7VWPrpIe8NEr_MUnLyiXDLNDWlg_Nu1lBCY2SgRvK1Xx4KwUuEYXDZn3jcfzOe6p_6mtDLRRtkT7hJwbFU5JmizuhUznlni51HT-g5CBW87E_iSiK" alt="" width="259" height="320" /></span></p><p dir="ltr">An autumn 2016 piece in the magazine’s Idealog section was labelled as a “defence of <a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/EA-AUTUMN-2016_FOR-WEB.pdf">tax havens</a>”. The IEA has long promoted tax havens, and does not disclose how this work is funded. However, earlier this year, it was revealed that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/31/jersey-finance-paid-iea-to-trash-hotbeds-of-tax-evasion-claims">Jersey Finance</a>, which promotes Jersey as a financial centre, paid for an IEA report published in June this year that attacked the idea that offshore financial centres were “hotbeds of tax evasion”. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Pro-Brexit</h2><p dir="ltr">In 2015, before the European Union referendum, EA carried a double-page spread by economist Patrick Minford entitled ‘<a href="https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EA-Spring-2015_VIEWPOINT.pdf">Why Britain should leave the EU</a>’. The piece concluded that the case for Brexit was “overwhelming”. Minford’s modelling has since been described as “<a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2017/08/23/economists-for-brexit-predictions-are-inconsistent-with-basic-facts-of-international-trade/">inconsistent with the basic facts of international trade</a>” by fellow economists. </p><p><span><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/AHwP-ZI6kH5Lq-gRA3NPaEqa8KbHPbLoVZDIlJ4042q-4KzLZUYchSTkNx2XpiC-gkFj34hCoFBbvTEhEkAr0CA1LOpZjU-XAms0e82dP854AgGbpBLG44Byi_A6dq76KGTwTkAU" alt="" width="504" height="402" /></span></p><p dir="ltr">EA did not carry any article in favour of remaining in the EU before the referendum. The IEA has become a favourite think tank of many Brexiters, <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2018/09/28/the-ieas-plan-a-for-free-trade-is-the-product-of-fanaticism/">publishing papers arguing that Britain would benefit</a> from leaving the customs union and single market.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Under investigation</h2><p dir="ltr">In July, the Charity Commission announced that it was investigating the IEA after an <a href="https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2018/07/29/a-hard-brexit-think-tank-offered-a-prospective-us-agribusiness-donor-the-chance-to-influence-its-report-on-green-brexit/">undercover sting</a> by The Guardian and Greenpeace revealed the identity of a number of the IEA’s funders, ands that senior staff had offered potential US donors access to government ministers and civil servants in order to fund its work on post-Brexit trade deals.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA was recently named in <a href="https://www.bindmans.com/uploads/files/documents/17_July_2018_-_Particulars_of_Claim_(As_Lodged).pdf">court papers</a> as one of a number of “linked” right-wing think tanks which work closely together and operate out of offices a few metres from each other in Westminster. Other groups include the TaxPayers’ Alliance, <a href="https://www.desmog.co.uk/directory/vocabulary/14991">Civitas</a>, the Adam Smith Institute, Leave Means Leave, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Brexit Central, and the Centre for Policy Studies. </p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, shadow chancellor <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/nov/11/brexit-whistleblower-shahmir-sanni-taxpayers-alliance-concedes-it-launched-smears">John McDonnell told The Guardian</a> that the IEA are lobbyists, not thinktanks”, and called on the BBC to reflect that when introducing their spokespeople.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Powerful friends</h2><p dir="ltr">The IEA, founded in 1955 by Anthony Fisher, describes itself as the "UK’s original free market think tank". It has the charitable objects of "the promotion and advancement of learning by research into economic and political science and by educating the public therein", according to its entry on the Charity Commission’s online register.</p><p dir="ltr">IEA representatives regularly appear in the news media, and the think tank has strong links with a number of senior Conservative figures, including <a href="https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/new-health-secretary-matt-hancock-12891819">Matt Hancock</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab</a>. The former Brexit secretary credits the IEA with supporting a book he co-authored with Tory MPs, Britannia Unchained, that described British workers as “<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19300051">among the worst idlers</a>”.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA regularly receives the <a href="http://whofundsyou.org/">lowest rating</a> for transparency from campaign group Who Funds You? The American Friends of the IEA, a US entity set up to allow US-based corporations and individuals to donate to the institute, raised at least $1.69m in the past decade, according to recent analysis by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/28/us-groups-raise-millions-to-support-rightwing-uk-thinktanks">The Guardian</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Asked who funded the schools magazine, the IEA’s director Mark Littlewood said: “EA is funded by the Institute of Economic Affairs. It is sent to over 99% of schools in the UK that teach economics – more than 1,300 schools across the country.”</p><p dir="ltr">EA is circulated to students in both private and state schools across the UK. Contributors include IEA staff and members of other prominent right-wing groups from both sides of the Atlantic, Including the Cato Institute and the TaxPayers’ Alliance. </p><p dir="ltr">As well as publishing the magazine, IEA research staff tour the UK <a href="https://iea.org.uk/list-of-sixth-form-events/">visiting schools</a>, hosting 20 conferences in the past financial year. Many of these conferences follow similar themes to the pages of EA. In February, lower-sixth economics students in Portsmouth listened to talks that included a discussion on “why the minimum wage may not necessarily help those it is intended to”. Another conference looked at “whether there really is sexist prejudice in businesses or whether campaigns manipulated stats for their benefit”.</p><p dir="ltr">Responding to a question from openDemocracy about how the IEA provides “balanced and neutral” information to students attending their talks, IEA executive director Mark Littlewood said:</p><p dir="ltr">“The talks given by the IEA provide an analysis of factual evidence and data.</p><p dir="ltr">“Furthermore, the teachings of free-market economics almost always relates to topical or ‘politically charged’ issues of the day. So does any lesson in any school about history: the political history of the UK, the advent of female suffrage, the founding of the National Health Service, the destruction of South African apartheid by Nelson Mandela and the ANC, and an endless list of other issues.</p><p dir="ltr">“We suggest this content should not be banned, and it would be unwise to believe that some ‘neutral’ state agency is best placed to determine the ‘truth’ as against ‘opinion’.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Responding to questions about the funding of the EA magazine, a spokesperson for the IEA said, “The Institute’s editorial and policy output – in both our reports and our educational material – is decided by its research team and Academic Advisory Council only. Any funding we receive does not, under any circumstances, influence the focus or conclusions of our research. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“Your insinuation is that we only purport certain analysis and views because we are paid to. This is categorically untrue. If you really believe that IEA authors and spokespeople are socialist, tax-loving, big-state advocates at heart, who only advocate free-market economics for a pay cheque, then you are badly mistaken”.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/revealed-how-uk-s-powerful-right-wing-think-tanks-and-conse">Revealed: how the UK’s powerful right-wing think tanks and Conservative MPs work together</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab: is he the IEA’s man in government?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/mapped-shanker-singhams-unparalleled-access-to-government-ministers-a">Mapped – hard Brexit guru Singham&#039;s &#039;unparalleled&#039; access to government </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal">Liam Fox caught in fresh “lobbyists as advisers” scandal</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk ourNHS Brexit Institute of Economic Affairs climate change Climate change denial tax havens tobacco American Enterprise Institute DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Wed, 28 Nov 2018 12:45:22 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 120732 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Theresa May accused of "major cover-up" over Brexit donor Arron Banks https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-and-jenna-corderoy/theresa-may-accused-of-major-cover-up-over-brexit-do <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Home Office refuses openDemocracy’s request for information about investigation into Banks – saying this “would impede the future formulation of government policy”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/PA-39816769_460.jpg" alt="Theresa May" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>May won’t say. Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Theresa May is under increasing pressure to clarify reports that she blocked an investigation into Brexit bankroller Arron Banks in the run-up to the 2016 referendum after the Home Office refused to reveal information about the controversial Leave.EU and UKIP donor.</p><p>In an “extraordinary” response to a freedom of information request from openDemocracy, the Home Office refused to confirm or deny whether it holds any material from 2016 about Leave.EU and Banks. The department said that doing so “would impede the future formulation of government policy”.</p><p>Opposition MPs have accused the Home Office of a “major cover-up” and called on the government to “ditch the obfuscation” and “come clean”, amid media reports that May, as home secretary, blocked a proposed probe into Banks ahead of the Brexit vote.</p><p>In a letter seen by openDemocracy, Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake has called on the prime minister to “clarify whether you were aware of any concerns regarding Arron Banks’s finances and alleged relationships with foreign states”. The Leave donor is currently under investigation by the National Crime Agency.</p><p>In an effort to ascertain whether there was any truth to the allegations that May vetoed a probe into Banks’s affairs, openDemocracy asked the Home Office for any communications from May’s time as home secretary that referred to Banks or Leave.EU. In response, the department said that even confirming or denying whether it held any information “would impede the future formulation of government policy”.</p><h2>Yes Minister, the Kafka version</h2><p>Responding to the Home Office decision – which openDemocracy is challenging – Tom Brake said: "The government's lame excuse for failing to respond to an FOI request from openDemocracy combines a touch of Yes Minister with a pinch of Kafka.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/Tom Brake letter 20 November 2018.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/Tom Brake letter 20 November 2018.png" alt="Tom Brake's letter to Theresa May, dated 20 November 2018" title="" width="460" height="525" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Banks, whose £8.4m gift to Leave campaigns was the single biggest donation in British political history, is facing a criminal investigation over concerns that he was not the “true source” of the money. Questions have also been raised about Banks’s links to Russia. Banks denies any wrongdoing.</p><p>The NCA probe followed an Electoral Commission investigation that found evidence that Bank’s Brexit funding had come “from impermissible sources”.</p><p>Last weekend, openDemocracy revealed that Banks raised the possibility of fundraising for Brexit in the US while emailing former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. Donations from outside the UK are illegal under British election legislation.</p><p>openDemocracy has also revealed that Banks lied to MPs about the political work that his insurance company did for his Leave.EU campaign.</p><h2>What did May do?</h2><p>After the NCA investigation was launched, a report in the Daily Mail suggested that Theresa May had previously vetoed a probe into Banks before the Brexit vote took place. “The topic was simply too explosive in the run-up to the referendum,” the newspaper wrote.</p><p>In the Commons last week, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw MP asked May whether she had told security services not to investigate Banks when she was home secretary. She replied: “We do not comment, in this House, on individual criminal investigations.”</p><p>Bradshaw, who wrote to May asking if she had ever declined a request from the security services to conduct a probe into Banks the day after it was announced that the NCA investigation had begun, said that the Home Office’s response to openDemocracy suggested that “the government is trying to hide behind the form of language usually used to avoid commenting on intelligence matters. This is not an intelligence matter.</p><p>“It is a question about whether the government blocked an earlier investigation into someone who, two years later, is finally under criminal investigation.</p><p>"This is an extraordinary response from the Home Office and points, I'm afraid, to a major cover-up. How can telling the truth about whether the Home Office blocked an investigation into Banks 'impede the future development of government policy'? It's got nothing to do with the future formulation of government policy,” Bradshaw said.</p><p>Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake added: "It is time the government and the PM ditched the obfuscation and came clean with what the PM knew about the Banks allegations when.</p><p>"Trust in both politicians and the EU referendum result depend on it.”</p><p>In September deputy Labour leader Tom Watson also asked whether May had blocked a possible investigation into Banks before the referendum.</p><p>“There is a suggestion that in the run-up to the referendum the prime minister – in her capacity at the time as home secretary – declined at least one application from the security services to mount a full investigation into Mr Banks and others suspected of Russian influence. We need to know if that is true,” Watson told an event at Labour conference sponsored by The Observer.</p><p>In May, Leave.EU was fined £70,000 following an investigation by the Electoral Commission into what the electoral watchdog called “serious offences”. Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney was referred to the police, but last month openDemocracy revealed that police had yet to open the investigation due to concerns around “political sensitivities”.</p><p>Earlier this month, the Information Commissioner’s Office announced that it intended to fine Leave.EU and Banks’s insurance company Eldon £135,000 for “serious breaches” of data laws around the Brexit vote.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/brexit-bankroller-arron-banks-cambridge-analytica-and-steve-bannon-expl">Brexit bankroller Arron Banks, Cambridge Analytica and Steve Bannon – explosive emails reveal fresh links</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">Arron Banks lied to parliament about his Brexit campaign, say whistleblowers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Brexit investigations Arron Banks Theresa May DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Wed, 21 Nov 2018 13:12:18 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 120650 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit bankroller Arron Banks, Cambridge Analytica and Steve Bannon – explosive emails reveal fresh links https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/brexit-bankroller-arron-banks-cambridge-analytica-and-steve-bannon-expl <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Brexit donor asked controversial Trump-linked data firm to 'come up with strategy' for fundraising in the US – and gave them access to personal information about British voters, according to new leaked emails</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/bannon.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/bannon.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Steve Bannon. Image, Gage Skidmore, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Brexit bankroller Arron Banks’s close relationship with the controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica – and the key role played by former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon in the early days of Banks’s Brexit campaign – have been laid bare in explosive new emails obtained by openDemocracy.<br /><br />Banks, who is currently under investigation by the National Crime Agency over the sources of his £8.4m Brexit donation, told&nbsp;<a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/oral/85344.html">parliament in June&nbsp;</a>that he had “initial discussions” with the controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica but “did not take up their services”.</p><p dir="ltr">Emails and documents obtained by openDemocracy show that:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Far-right guru Steve Bannon, Trump’s former campaign chief, personally introduced Cambridge Analytica to Banks’s Brexit campaign, which is now under criminal investigation.</p></li></ul><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Banks asked Cambridge Analytica “to come up with a strategy” for his Leave.EU campaign to raise funds in the United States months before the Brexit vote. Donations from overseas are not permitted under British law.<br class="kix-line-break" /></p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Cambridge Analytica was given access to personal information about British voters from Banks’s Leave.EU campaign, including access to social media accounts and call centre data. Banks has previously claimed to parliament that "the only data that was ever sent to Cambridge Analytica was from UKIP”.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">- Cambridge Analytica discussed working with Bank’s Eldon Insurance company. Leave.EU had previously said “we never involved the insurance company and Cambridge Analytica ever.”</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr">The revelations come as Banks is poised to play a key role in pushing for a hard Brexit. On Twitter, Banks’s Leave.EU campaign has declared&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/LeaveEUOfficial/status/1063340316013588480">“May must go!”</a>&nbsp;and has encouraged supporters to join the Conservatives to force the prime minister out of office.</p><p dir="ltr">A number of the emails obtained by openDemocracy are expected to be published as evidence by parliament's inquiry into fake news this coming week. </p><p dir="ltr">Commenting on openDemocracy's revelations, Damian Collins, chair of the inquiry said: "This is more evidence that Arron Banks misled the select committee when he gave evidence to parliament.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">"Here we can glimpse how these secret connections were being planned and discussed; the incubation of a political virus involving key people, data, money and consultancies like Cambridge Analytica.</p><p dir="ltr">He added: "Why was (Banks) seeking support from Cambridge Analytica with fundraising in America if all the money for Leave.EU came from his own resources? These emails should form part of the NCA investigation into Arron Banks’s finances.<br /><br />"The emails also show that contact between key Trump aides like Steve Bannon, and men like Arron Banks, was not just passing, but that they were working together through and involving common businesses, like Cambridge Analytica."<br /><br />Dr Emma L Briant, who has submitted similar evidence to the parliamentary committee, said: "Leave.EU funder Arron Banks denies claims that he may have received Russian money for Brexit. This new evidence shows that Banks was seeking foreign funding for Brexit from the very beginning."</p><p dir="ltr">"The emails also reveal new evidence of what constituted Banks’s ‘two stage’ plans for LeaveEU involving Cambridge Analytica. If he did not need their services, why did he go to them? The Electoral Commission must re-open their investigation into Leave.EU, as this evidence reignites questions of whether undeclared services were part of the campaign."<br /><br />Cambridge Analytica, which initially came to prominence for its role in the 2016 Trump campaign, was wound up after the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/14/leave-eu-arron-banks-new-question-referendum-funded-brexit-cambridge-analytica">Observer newspaper revealed that</a>&nbsp;it had harvested data on tens of millions of Facebook users and engaged in ‘black ops’ political campaigns around the world.</p><div><p dir="ltr">The National Crime Agency announced that it was investigating Banks earlier this month after the UK elections watchdog reported concerns that the £8.4m Banks spent on the Brexit campaign – the biggest single donation in British political history – came from impermissible sources outside the UK. Banks has denied this.</p></div><h2 dir="ltr">The Steve Bannon connection </h2><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy recently&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">revealed that Banks misled parliament</a>&nbsp;by saying that Leave.EU and his Eldon insurance business were separate businesses. We also showed that his&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/revealed-arron-banks-s-staff-crunched-millions-of-voters-data-after-brexit-vote">insurance staff had access to personal information on tens of millions of voters</a>&nbsp;of British voters gathered from electoral rolls from across the UK. Banks has denied misusing any data.</p><p dir="ltr">However the new emails leaked to openDemocracy provide a much clearer picture of the relationship between Arron Banks and Cambridge Analytica than has previously been known. </p><p dir="ltr">In August 2016, just a few weeks after the Brexit vote, Steve Bannon, then Donald Trump’s campaign chief, invited Banks to a political fundraiser in Mississippi. This was not Banks’s first engagement with Bannon. Almost a year earlier, it was Bannon who brought Cambridge Analytica and Banks’s Brexit campaign together. </p><p dir="ltr">Just a month after Leave.EU was founded, communications seen by openDemocracy indicate that the former Breitbart chief introduced Banks to Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica’s onetime CEO, and arranged a follow-up phonecall between Banks and Cambridge Analytica. Bannon and Nix were together in the US on this call, along with other staff from the data analytics firm.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">On 24 October, the day after the scheduled meeting with Cambridge Analytica, Banks, in an email sent to some of his closest associates, said that he “would like CA to come up with a strategy for fund raising in the States and engaging companies and special interest groups that might be affected by TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership)”. </p><p dir="ltr">Steve Bannon was among the email’s recipients.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 10.16.31.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 10.16.31.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Banks added that he would like Cambridge Analytica to help his Brexit campaign “connect to people with family ties to the UK and raise money and create SM [social media] activity.” </p><p dir="ltr">On 25 October, a senior Cambridge Analytica staffer wrote to Banks saying that the firm was developing a proposal that would “include our discussed targeted campaigns” and plans for “targeting businesses for support and US-based fundraising strategies.”</p><p dir="ltr">Donations to British political causes can only be made by individuals who are on the electoral roll or UK-based companies. </p><p dir="ltr">In early December 2015, Banks was quoted in <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-referendum-controversial-leaveeu-co-founder-arron-banks-on-why-hes-happy-to-put-noses-out-of-a6762806.html">the Independent</a> describing the proposed TTIP trade deal as “a disaster” and boasting that he was working with Cambridge Analytica to “boost Leave.EU’s social media campaign”.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has said that he did not sign a contract with Cambridge Analytica and that no work was completed, as Leave.EU did not win the official designation as lead campaign in the Brexit referendum. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Whose data?</h2><p dir="ltr">Banks came to prominence as a political donor in 2014 when he pledged to give £1 million to UKIP. The Eurosceptic party also had connections with Cambridge Analytica.</p><p dir="ltr">Not long after Steve Bannon introduced Banks to Cambridge Analytica, UKIP staff were being asked to provide the data analytics firm with political data, including information from the electoral roll. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Banks told MPs in parliament in June that "the only data that was ever sent to Cambridge Analytica was from UKIP”. But emails obtained by openDemocracy suggest that around the same time Cambridge Analytica was working with UKIP, the firm was also engaging in very similar contact with Leave.EU. </p><p dir="ltr">In October 2015, a Cambridge Analytica employee wrote to Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney asking for data about subscribers and donors, a database of calls from the Leave.EU call centre (“particularly with the ‘Notes’ included”) and login details for the group’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 10.18.42.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 10.18.42.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="377" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A Leave.EU employee responded to Cambridge Analytica with details of how all this data could be accessed. Internal Leave.EU workflow documents seen by openDemocracy also suggest that the data analytics firm was given access to this Leave.EU data.</p><p>The following month, Cambridge Analytica operations director Julian Wheatland wrote to Arron Banks and his spokesperson Andy Wigmore, citing “our proposal for Phase 1 support to the Leave.EU campaign”. Wheatland said that he would “meet with members of the UKIP data team tomorrow to understand and share available data and prepare to start analysis”.<br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 10.19.48.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 10.19.48.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Once again, former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon was among the recipients of the Cambridge Analytica email. The company’s <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/culture-media-and-sport/BK-Background-paper-CA-proposals-to-LeaveEU.pdf">initial proposal to Leave.EU</a> was published earlier this year in testimony given to parliament’s ‘fake news’ inquiry by CA whistleblower Brittany Kaiser. </p><h2 dir="ltr">“We never involved the insurance company and Cambridge Analytica ever”</h2><p dir="ltr">Questions have been previously raised about the relationship between Cambridge Analytica and Banks’s other business interests. <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/oral/85344.html">Banks told parliament’s inquiry into ‘fake news’</a>: “We did not use Cambridge Analytica.” At the same parliamentary committee meeting, Banks’s longtime confidante Andy Wigmore told MPs “we never involved the insurance company and Cambridge Analytica ever.”</p><p dir="ltr">The new emails suggest that there were discussions about how Cambridge Analytica could work with Banks’s insurance business. In November 2015, a Cambridge Analytica employee wrote to Banks saying that the company was drawing up project proposals for, amongst other things, “concurrent work on how we help the Party and your insurance company. We will have some documents to you before the end of this week."<br class="kix-line-break" /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 10.20.57.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-17 at 10.20.57.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="146" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br class="kix-line-break" /></p><p dir="ltr">On December 5, Wheatland wrote to Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney saying “we will make sure that the Target Audience Analysis (TAA) suits the purposes of Leave as well as UKIP and we will try to seed some questions into the survey that will help inform future study of insurance risk profiling.”</p><p dir="ltr">Documents that we have seen confirm that Cambridge Analytica conducted its initial phase of data analytics, priced at £41,500, at the request of Leave.EU, although both they and Cambridge Analytica deny that final work products were provided, due to payment not being made. Cambridge Analytica later issued an invoice to UKIP for this work, and Banks made a donation to UKIP of a similar amount to the party months later, but UKIP have claimed that they never paid the invoice either.&nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Bad boys’ of Brexit</h2><p dir="ltr">Banks initially boasted of Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in his Brexit campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">In his book ‘The Bad Boys of Brexit’, Banks says that in October 2015 Leave.EU hired Cambridge Analytica, a company that uses “big data and advanced psychographics” to influence people. </p><p dir="ltr">In November 2015, Leave.EU said on its website that Cambridge Analytica “will be helping us map the British electorate and what they believe in, enabling us to better engage with voters”. In the same month, Cambridge Analytica director Brittany Kaiser spoke at a Leave.EU news conference. She said her organisation would be “running large-scale research of the nation to really understand why people are interested in staying in or out of the EU”.<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />In February 2016, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix wrote that: “We have already helped supercharge Leave.EU’s social media campaign by ensuring the right messages are getting to the right voters online.” </p><p dir="ltr">A recent report by the UK Information Commissioner found that there was <a href="https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/2260271/investigation-into-the-use-of-data-analytics-in-political-campaigns-final-20181105.pdf">“no evidence</a> of a working relationship between CA and Leave.EU proceeding beyond this initial phase.”</p><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore have so far not responded to questions from openDemocracy.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/revealed-arron-banks-s-staff-crunched-millions-of-voters-data-after-brexit-vote">Revealed: Arron Banks’s staff crunched millions of voters’ data after Brexit vote</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">Arron Banks lied to parliament about his Brexit campaign, say whistleblowers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-whistleblowers-say-arron-banks-misled-viewers-o">Whistleblowers say Arron Banks ‘misled’ viewers on BBC Andrew Marr show</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit">Arron Banks and the missing £11m for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">Arron Banks and Brexit’s offshore secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">Not everyone agrees with Arron Banks about the value of his diamond mines</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/what-we-learned-about-arron-banks-at-fake-news-inquiry">What we learned about Arron Banks at the fake news inquiry</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/following-banks-money-who-provided-payment-in-paraphernalia">Following Arron Banks&#039; money: who delivered the payment in paraphernalia?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/how-arron-banks-campaign-ambassador-jim-mellon-made-millions-in-russia-nigel-farage">Revealed: How Arron Banks’s campaign ‘ambassador’ made his millions in Russia</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk United States UK Democracy and government investigations Brexit Arron Banks Steve Bannon Nigel Farage Donald Trump Cambridge Analytica DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Sat, 17 Nov 2018 09:36:59 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 120594 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: How Arron Banks’s campaign ‘ambassador’ made his millions in Russia https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/how-arron-banks-campaign-ambassador-jim-mellon-made-millions-in-russia-nigel-farage <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jim Mellon introduced Brexit ‘bad boys’ Nigel Farage and Arron Banks, and was a Leave.EU ambassador. He claims he hasn’t been involved in Russia since the 1990s. But our investigation shows he still has major financial exposure to Russian investments.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/mellon-farage-banks.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/mellon-farage-banks.jpg" alt="lead Jim Mellon, Nigel Farage, Arron Banks" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jim Mellon, Nigel Farage, Arron Banks. Image L-R: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=94&amp;v=JlSsLS3WfHw" target="_blank">Master Investor</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/80038275@N00/16700055172" target="_blank">Michael Vadon</a>, PA Images. </span></span></span></p><p>In early 1990s Russia, a lot of people died. Organised criminals and ex-Soviet officials fought vicious turf wars for control of industries and political power. And a man called Jim Mellon became fabulously wealthy.</p><p>Two decades later, Mellon toured his friend Nigel Farage around a number of potential major political donors. In late summer 2014, <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/farages-millionaire-donors-find-ways-to-save-money-on-tax-ncxc8cg99ld">he introduced the UKIP leader</a> to the insurance salesman Arron Banks. Within a few weeks, Banks had pledged a million pounds to the anti-EU party and, the next year, Mellon donated £50,000 via Better For The Country Ltd, a forerunner to Banks and Farage’s Leave.EU campaign. Mellon was described as an “ambassador” for Leave.EU, and was scheduled to appear at Leave.EU’s launch.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image10.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image10.png" alt="theKnow.eu, a forerunner to Banks and Farage's Leave.EU campaign." title="" width="460" height="290" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>theKnow.eu, a forerunner to Banks and Farage's Leave.EU campaign.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Last week the National Crime Agency <a href="http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/news/1498-nca-initiates-investigation-following-electoral-commission-referral">announced an investigation</a> into Arron Banks and others linked to Leave.EU over suspected criminal offences committed in the Brexit referendum, after the <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/our-work/roles-and-responsibilities/our-role-as-regulator-of-political-party-finances/sanctions/report-on-investigation-into-payments-made-to-better-for-the-country-and-leave.eu">Electoral Commission</a> found there were reasonable grounds to suspect that Banks was not the “true source” of £8m in funding for the pro-Brexit groups he backed. This followed <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">reporting from openDemocracy</a> and others which raised pressing questions about how Banks could have afforded to become the biggest political donor in British history.</p><p dir="ltr">The UK parliament’s ongoing inquiry into misinformation and fake news has <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcumeds/363/363.pdf">asked questions about Banks’s Russian links</a>, and the Observer newspaper has revealed a string of connections between Banks and Russia. In <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/09/arron-banks-russia-brexit-meeting">notorious emails</a> between Banks and the Russian embassy, Banks describes Jim Mellon as his business partner. But Mellon, the man who introduced Banks and Farage, has escaped much scrutiny – until now.</p><p dir="ltr">During the 2016 referendum campaign, a representative of Jim Mellon, <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/millionaire-backer-for-leave-does-not-have-right-to-vote-0bpb9b75c">Denham Eke said</a> he had “not been involved in Russia or Russian investments since the 1990s” and had “no relationship with Russia”.</p><p dir="ltr">However, an investigation by openDemocracy has revealed that firms in which Mellon has major interests have maintained close links with prominent Russian businessmen – and have profited significantly from decisions made by Vladimir Putin and his associates over the last 25 years.</p><p dir="ltr">Specifically, we have learned that:</p><p>- Firms linked to Mellon have continued to invest in Russia for over 25 years and adopted a strategy of investing in firms with “management close to Putin.”<br />- One fund linked to Mellon set up a new firm to buy Gazprom shares on the very day that Putin announced foreigners would be allowed to purchase them.<br />- The same Mellon-linked fund was selected to invest in Russia’s state diamond company as it was privatised.<br />- Mellon holds a stake in a bio-tech firm with labs in the Skolkovo science park in Moscow. The<a href="https://www.bizjournals.com/boston/blog/startups/2014/04/fbis-boston-office-warns-businesses-of-venture.html"> FBI have warned</a> that Skolkovo is a front for industrial espionage activities.<br />- Firms linked to Mellon were involved in a number of deals with politically exposed Russian oligarchs including an ex-KGB officer, Andrey Pannikov, and Roustam Tariko, who sponsored the Miss World event in Moscow attended by Trump.<br />- Mellon invested £54,765* in a South London beauty salon run by a Russian ex-Alfa Bank employee.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mellon highlights that he had no executive role in the firm with the most Russian connections – Charlemagne Capital – and says he was not directly involved in the investment decisions. However, he was a co-founder, non-executive director and major shareholder of the firm.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Mellon’s business partner Arron Banks is listed as the main funder of the Brexit campaign, claiming to have put £12m into Leave.EU and other anti-EU groups. However, as openDemocracy <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">revealed last year</a>, there are serious questions about how Arron Banks could have afforded to donate that amount of money to the Brexit cause. Banks claims he made all his money from his insurance businesses, saying “The Leave.EU campaign was funded by myself, Peter Hargreaves and the general public… allegations of ‘Brexit’ being funded by the Russians... are complete bollocks from beginning to end.”</p><p dir="ltr">There is absolutely no allegation that Jim Mellon is the source of Banks’ Brexit funding, nor that he has broken any law. But our investigation does reveal yet more connections between an important Leave.EU ambassador and Russia, including prominent Russians with close links to Putin.</p><p dir="ltr">Mellon has declined to provide openDemocracy with a comment on the record about any of the questions we put to him.</p><h2>How did Mellon make his millions?</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image5_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image5_0.png" alt="Jim Mellon (right) with Arron Banks (centre) and Andy Wigmore (left)." title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jim Mellon (right) with Arron Banks (centre) and Andy Wigmore (left). Image: Instagram.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">During the chaotic privatisations of the early 1990s, Russian citizens were given vouchers which entitled them to buy shares in the privatised state companies. While the traditional Soviet economy collapsed, a violent black market thrived.</p><p dir="ltr">On an early visit to Russia, Jim Mellon talks of having to<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/7eab96ce-bf96-11e1-bb88-00144feabdc0"> barricade the door of his hotel</a> in Vladivostok where, just a week later, a New Zealander was “hacked to death”. After hiring bodyguards, he and his business partner, Jayne Sutcliffe, picked up suitcases of share vouchers for “little more than a bottle of vodka” and overnight transformed $2m to $17m.</p><p dir="ltr">Mellon then founded his investment business, Regent Pacific, and began to invest millions of pounds in Russia throughout the 1990s, taking large stakes in many of Russia’s biggest companies.</p><p dir="ltr">These days, Mellon is a resident of the Isle of Man, the offshore banking centre between the UK and Ireland which<a href="https://www.spearswms.com/its-going-to-the-dogs/"> he says</a> is “a good base to establish new businesses from a tax and regulatory point of view.”</p><p dir="ltr">It also means he is not eligible to vote in the UK. However, Mellon has provided tens of thousands of pounds to UK political causes from his UK-based companies, backing the Conservatives, UKIP and both Leave.EU and the official Vote Leave Campaign. This is all legal. </p><p dir="ltr">However, questions have always circulated about the extent of Mellon’s involvement in UK politics, his business career and ties to Russia. &nbsp;</p><h2 dir="ltr">Who is Jim Mellon?</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image7.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image7.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Mellon, an Oxford-educated Scot, is the son of <a href="https://www.chu.cam.ac.uk/media/uploads/files/Mellon.pdf">Sir James Mellon</a>, a British diplomat who served in East Berlin before becoming ambassador to Denmark, High Commissioner in Ghana and Consul General in New York.</p><p dir="ltr">He began his career as an investment analyst in Hong Kong in 1979 before going on to <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/7eab96ce-bf96-11e1-bb88-00144feabdc0">found Thornton Management</a> with former colleague Richard Thornton in 1984. When the firm was sold four years later, Mellon became a millionaire. He bought homes in Ibiza and the Isle of Man where he continues to live, and went on to found Regent Pacific in Hong Kong, which soon became one of the largest investors in the Russian market on the back of the share certificates he bought from “Russian housewives”.</p><p dir="ltr">In 1994, Mellon <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1994/07/30/your-money/IHT-briefcase-regent-pacifics-new-fund-will-target-russian.html">described privatisation</a> in Russia as “the largest and fastest restructuring of an economy in human history”. By 1997, Bloomberg featured Regent Pacific in an article titled “<a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/1997-06-22/the-bad-boys-of-emerging-markets">The Bad Boys of Emerging Markets</a>”. The firm had over $1.1 billion invested in Russia, and also ran its third largest brokerage house.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The same year, the company was listed as the second largest shareholder in Uralmash, a manufacturer of heavy engineering vehicles notorious for its connections to the <a href="https://smallcrowdedworld.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/the-uralmash-gang-a-case-study-of-russian-organized-crime/">Uralmash gang</a> which fought a vicious turf war to control the city of Ekaterinburg.</p><p dir="ltr">Regent Pacific also took <a href="https://www.londonstockexchange.com/exchange/prices-and-markets/stocks/new-and-recent-issues/new-recent-issue-details.html?issueId=8824">a stake</a> in Lukoil, a company <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/person.asp?personId=141943329&amp;privcapId=728733">co-founded</a> by<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/c3c5c012-21e9-11dd-a50a-000077b07658"> Andrey Pannikov</a>, an ex-KGB man who had been expelled for espionage from Sweden in 1988. Pannikov had obtained the first oil export license issued by Russia and had begun to foster close relations with Vladimir Putin, then deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, whom he was rumoured to have financially supported.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Mellon and Regent Pacific also <a href="http://faculty.som.yale.edu/zhiwuchen/EmergingMarkets/Peregrine%20plus%20Gazprom%20cases.pdf">attracted the attention</a> of the board of Gazprom, the state owned Russian gas company. At the time, there were only a limited number of shares available to foreign investors due to the Russian government’s policy of ensuring the company remained in Russian hands.</p><p dir="ltr">A parallel market was set up by <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/19/business/ownership-of-gazprom-questioned-shares-fall.html">Deutsche Bank</a> to trade these stocks. Overseas investors could buy ADRs (American Depositary Receipts) from Deutsche which were actually packages of Gazprom shares deposited with the bank in Russia.</p><p dir="ltr">Predictably, the prices of locally traded shares and the ADRs widened: “Russian only” shares cost much less than the shares traded by western investors.</p><p dir="ltr">To exploit this difference, Regent Pacific set up a Russian company to buy Gazprom stock on the Russian market and then to sell units in this company to foreign investors. Mellon quickly <a href="http://old.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/tmt/310868.html">raised $200m</a> from western investors.</p><p dir="ltr">However, the scheme led to the Gazprom board voicing their disapproval of Regent Pacific’s methods. Mellon later<a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20180402225713/http://www.oldmasters.net/journal/jim-mellon-interview-spears-wms-magazine-issue-no-13/"> told a reporter</a> he decided to leave Russia, fearing he “might end up at the bottom of the Moscow River”. Following pressure from influential ministers and the Gazprom board, Mellon cancelled the scheme saying later, “We had too much at stake in Russia ... and I know when to walk away.”</p><p dir="ltr">Then, during the Russian financial collapse of 1998, Mellon’s funds dramatically collapsed in value, wiping out much of his investors funds. Regent Pacific had to lay off over 40 workers in their Moscow office. It seemed Mellon’s days in Russia were nearly over.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Putin’s Russia</h2><p style="text-align: left;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/regent pacific offices.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/regent pacific offices.png" alt="Regent Pacific offices, Hong Kong." title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Regent Pacific offices, Hong Kong. Image: Google Maps.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">However, by 2000 the Russian economy had begun to rebound – and so did Regent Pacific. Mellon and his business partner Jayne Sutcliffe split their funds into two companies, with Mellon running the Hong Kong-based Regent Pacific and Sutcliffe leading the London-based Charlemagne Capital, <a href="https://www.devere-group.com/fundhouses/CharlemagneCapitalLtd.aspx">which focused on</a> investments in Russia, and other east European emerging markets. This is the point at which Mellon’s spokesperson claims he severed his links with the country. But Mellon remained a major shareholder and <a href="http://fstfwd.co/directors/jim-mellon">non-executive director</a> of Charlemagne, and his father took up <a href="https://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks/company-officers/0575ta.HK">a place on the board of its UK subsidiary</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Yeltsin had been replaced by Vladimir Putin. The new leader appointed Medvedev, the current prime minister, to the board of Gazprom and began kicking out old Yeltsin appointees and replacing them with his own hand-picked men, such as Herman Gref, the <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/30/politics/full-us-list-of-russian-oligarchs-with-putin-ties-intl/index.html">now-sanctioned</a> CEO of Sberbank.</p><p dir="ltr">Putin decided to relax restrictions on foreigners holding Gazprom stock. In a meeting on 30th October 2003, he gave his consent to the type of scheme Mellon had attempted to set up five years earlier.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the Russian website <a href="https://neftegaz.ru/press/view/202">neftegaz.ru</a>, <a href="https://opencorporates.com/companies/bm/34356">on the same day</a>&nbsp;Charlemagne Capital established a company called Novy Neft in Bermuda to purchase the new shares and raised $100m from investors within a fortnight. This was either enormously fast paperwork, or Charlemagne had prior knowledge of Putin’s announcement.</p><p dir="ltr">The scheme was enormously successful. A second fund, <a href="http://www.bsx.com//NewsArticle.php?ArticleID=1100791525">Novy Neft II</a>, soon followed. Gazprom shares rose in value, both funds saw large increases in the values of their stocks and investors saw significant gains.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Russian diamonds, Trump, and Arron Banks</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image6.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image6.jpg" alt="Arron Banks (second from the left)." title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>From left: Leave.EU campaigner Gerry Gunster; Arron Banks; Donald Trump; Nigel Farage; Andy Wigmore; Raheem Kassam, former adviser to Farage and former Editor in Chief of Breitbart UK (Twitter).</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/08/revealed-leaveeu-campaign-met-russian-officials-as-many-as-11-times">2013</a> and<a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-11/oppenheimer-lazard-said-to-be-among-buyers-of-alrosa-shares"> 2016</a>, Charlemagne Capital was selected to participate in partial privatisations of Alrosa, the Russian state diamond company, and the <a href="https://www.petragems.com/education/top-ten-diamond-companies-in-the-world-/">second largest</a> diamond producer in the world.</p><p dir="ltr">The Russian Direct Investment Fund, a now sanctioned Russian sovereign wealth fund run by Kirill Dmitriev, selected Charlemagne as an investor in 2013. Dmitriev has more recently been in the headlines for secret meeting with a Trump confidant,<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/a5f0691c-2dae-11e8-9b4b-bc4b9f08f381"> the Blackwater founder, Erik Prince</a>, in the Seychelles during the US presidential election campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2016, when there was another part-privatisation, Charlemagne was invited to participate again. Between the announcement of the sale and its completion, investors were only given five working days to subscribe to the shares, offered at <a href="https://en.crimerussia.com/oligarchs/diamonds-for-oligarchs-why-privatization-won-t-save-russian-economy/">a sharp discount</a> to the government’s own valuation.</p><p dir="ltr">Mellon owned 40% of Charlemagne when it was established and continued to hold at least 20% of the business until 2016. His father, now in his late eighties, sat on the board of its UK subsidiary from 2000 until its sale, although Mellon denies any involvement in the operation of the business or any knowledge of its investments.</p><p dir="ltr">The UK House of Commons Inquiry into Disinformation and ‘Fake News’, which has released a report on the Brexit referendum campaigns,<a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcumeds/363/36308.htm#_idTextAnchor033"> has highlighted the Alrosa deal</a> as a point of concern, particularly as it was raised in emails between Brexit-backer Arron Banks and the Russian ambassador. Another deal floated by the Russians to Banks concerned the consolidation of a number of goldmines, and in emails seen by openDemocracy, Banks says “I’ve chatted to Jim Mellon who is my partner in the bank (Isle of Man based Manx financial). Jim has extensive interests in commodities.”</p><p dir="ltr">While Mellon denies knowing or having close ties to any Russian business or political figures, he does concede to having met the Russian ambassador to the UK on several occasions over the past few years. For this part, Arron Banks <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/08/revealed-leaveeu-campaign-met-russian-officials-as-many-as-11-times">caused controversy</a> when it transpired that he had in fact met the Russian ambassador eleven times, despite having long maintained he had only met him once.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Mergers in the Caribbean</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image9.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image9.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Trinity Exploration.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In 2012, two Trinidad and Tobago based oil firms merged: Bayfield and Trinity. Andrey Pannikov, the former KGB man with close ties to Putin’s inner circle,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.londonstockexchange.com/exchange/prices-and-markets/stocks/new-and-recent-issues/new-recent-issue-details.html?issueId=8669"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">owned 20% of Bayfield</span></a>. Jim Mellon’s firm Regent Pacific was a major investor in Trinity. Trinity had booked strong profits in 2011. Bayfield, however, was struggling, yet the two companies merged in a deal which seemingly made little sense for shareholders who were forced to accept large losses on their investments. Pannikov himself lost millions on his investment in Bayfield but was able to see the loss-making company salvaged by Trinity. Mellon admits the deal lost Regent Pacific £5m, and despite being a non-executive chairman and a major shareholder, he denies being personally involved and says he has never met Pannikov.</p><p dir="ltr">In the mid 2000s, Charlemagne Capital became one of the largest shareholders in the Central European Distribution Company, based in Poland. But the firm was hit hard by the 2008 crisis, and in April 2013 entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in order to restructure its debts. &nbsp;In the pre-packaged deal, over one third of the group’s debt was written off and Russian billionaire Roustam Tariko took ownership of the business. The New York Times called the deal an “exercise in stiffing shareholders”, but Charlemagne was able to exchange its equity for debt and salvaged 83% of the value of their investment. A rival offer from an Alfa Bank consortium put in a larger offer for the business, but strangely this seems to have been immediately rejected.</p><p dir="ltr">A few years later, Roustam Tariko sponsored the 2013 Miss Universe competition in Moscow, where he had <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/02/26/trumps-miss-universe-gambit">a neighbouring VIP box</a> to its organiser, Donald Trump.</p><h2 dir="ltr">“Firms whose management is close to Putin”</h2><p dir="ltr">Charlemagne Capital continued to invest heavily in Russia throughout the 2000s as Putin consolidated his grip on power. In 2003, Stefan Böttcher, a Charlemagne fund manager, described how the business had a policy of investing in “<a href="https://translate.google.ae/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://inosmi.ru/world/20040603/210090.html&amp;prev=search">firms whose management is close to Putin</a>.”</p><p dir="ltr">Mellon states that while he was a major shareholder in the business, he had no operational control and was not made aware of any investment decisions or strategies and thus had no involvement in or influence over the deals in Alrosa, Novy Neft, or the CEDC takeover. When the firm floated on the London stock market in 2006, Mellon reduced his shareholding from 40% to around 20%. The business boasted $4 billion in assets under management, which were mostly invested in Russia, and other east European countries.</p><p dir="ltr">Mellon also denies having ever met Andrey Pannikov or Roustam Tariko, but often meets Russians, including the ambassador to the UK, and personal friends at cultural and business gatherings.</p><h2 dir="ltr">“Lasers”, and Russian Intelligence</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image3.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="224" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">One such personal friend is Anna Saprykina, a former Alfa Bank employee who now runs a company called Body Silk in Hither Green, South London, which specialises in laser hair removal. Born in Russia, but with over 10 years spent in the UK, Saprykina is now a British citizen. A keen classical musician, she tells the story of how she and her sister were looking for investment to set up their business when they were introduced to Mellon at a concert in 2010.</p><p dir="ltr">Mellon invested £54,765* in the business. Eight years after it was established, it is currently for sale having racked up losses of £240,000. Saprykina, advertised the business as “ideal for a Tier One Entrepreneur visa” on her LinkedIn page.</p><p dir="ltr">Alfa Bank, Saprykina’s former employer, has been<a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2017/03/09/politics/fbi-investigation-continues-into-odd-computer-link-between-russian-bank-and-trump-organization/index.html"> named as a conduit</a> for Russian intelligence activities in multiple countries and is a focus of the Mueller investigation into ties between the Russian state and Donald Trump, although there is no suggestion that Saprykina has been involved in Russian intelligence.</p><p style="text-align: center;" dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 17.53.51.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 17.53.51.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="256" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jim Mellon's Facebook</span></span></span></p><h2 dir="ltr">The ‘money fountain’</h2><p dir="ltr">Mellon first met Banks when he invested in Conister Bank, an Isle of Man bank which Banks and his partners from Brightside insurance had recently bought. The two men became business partners in the venture they would soon re-name Manx Financial.</p><p dir="ltr">Both Arron Banks and Mellon continue to hold significant stakes <a href="https://www.mfg.im/investor-centre/aim-rule-26">in Manx Financial</a> and have also co-invested in other businesses together. It was from this relationship that Banks’s involvement in UK politics would grow as Mellon introduced him to Nigel Farage. The three men were reported discussing “other ways” of funding the then near-bankrupt UKIP to get around Mellon’s non-resident status according to <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/citydiary/10106554/Dashwood-Bangers-and-cash-for-Nigel-Farages-Brussels-blow-out.html">a Telegraph report in 2013</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">When openDemocracy (and others) have<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit"> looked into Banks’ true wealth</a>, we have not found evidence that he is as rich as he claims. With Mellon, however, there is little doubt that he has the trappings of a very wealthy man. He moves between luxury homes in Ibiza, Berlin and the Isle of Man on a private jet and gets the<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Brand_New_Heavies"> Brand New Heavies</a> to play at his parties. But, given that most of his businesses are based in secretive tax havens, it is difficult to gauge whether Mellon is, as Canadian senators said in a report about another of his businesses, “in constant financial difficulty” or more correctly valued at £1 billion, as the Sunday Times Rich List reported<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-isle-of-man-44082195"> this year</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">There is no suggestion that Mellon is the ultimate provider of the disputed funding for Leave campaigns.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Living for 200 years’</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image4.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image4.jpg" alt="" title="" width="352" height="499" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Today Regent Pacific, Mellon’s Hong Kong based business, is moving into biotech. Mellon says humans can live for 200 years due to all manner of technological advances, and claims he knows which ones to invest in. He calls this ‘longevity science’, tells investors it’s a ‘<a href="https://www.ft.com/content/30bb0752-6d5e-11e8-92d3-6c13e5c92914">money fountain</a>’, and has even co-written a book about longevity, called “Juvenesence” and set up a business with the same name.</p><p dir="ltr">Once again, his recent foray has brought him into contact with well-connected Russians. One of the companies Mellon <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-04/imi-bit040617.php">owns a stake</a> in is the start-up Insilico medicine, which has <a href="http://insilicomedicine.org/about/news/">66% of its staff in offices**</a> and labs at the Skolkovo Foundation Science Park in Moscow.</p><p dir="ltr">The Skolkovo Foundation is <a href="https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/skolkovo-foundation-to-get-15bln-in-2013-2020-26383">the brainchild</a> of <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-russia-sanctions-renova/u-s-sanctions-on-vekselberg-have-1-5-2-billion-assets-frozen-sources-idUSKBN1HS0FB">Viktor Veskelberg</a>, a sanctioned oligarch and close <a href="https://www.vox.com/world/2018/5/11/17337448/viktor-vekselberg-michael-cohen-trump-russia">confidant of</a> Putin. It has been described by the FBI as an attempt to conduct industrial espionage.</p><p dir="ltr">Mellon says that while he has visited the Skolkovo business park to see the Insilico Medicine operations, he has not had any interaction or meetings of any type with members of the Skolkovo Foundation, which often invests in businesses based on its campus, and points out that the firm is registered in the US and also has a base at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image11.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image11.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="283" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Skolkovo park in Moscow. Image: Google.</span></span></span></p><h2>“Snake in the grass”</h2><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks, the self-styled ‘bad boy of Brexit’, has already been found to have misrepresented the extent of his connections with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/08/revealed-leaveeu-campaign-met-russian-officials-as-many-as-11-times">Russian officials</a> and the value of his <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/.../not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-valu...">investments</a>. As openDemocracy has repeatedly shown, major&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">question marks</a> hang over the true extent of the insurance tycoon's wealth. Our reporting has also revealed how he <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">misled parliament about his business and political operations</a>, and how he accessed data on millions of voters. In the midst of intense political rows over the Brexit negotiations, Banks has also openly threatened to rally Leave.EU’s supporters to unseat anti-Brexit Tories.</p><p dir="ltr">For all these reasons, the questions about how Arron Banks found the money to become the largest political donor in UK history are not merely historic. They urgently need answers. There is no evidence to suggest that Mellon himself is the true source of Banks’s Brexit funds. However, while his spokesman said that Mellon “had not been involved in Russia or Russian investments since the 1990s”, our investigation shows that his financial exposure to Russian investments remained significant at the time of the referendum.</p><p>British parliamentarians from across the political spectrum have called for a Mueller-style investigation into Russian meddling in the Brexit referendum. One of the most prominent voices demanding this is the Conservative MP Damian Collins, chair of parliament's ongoing inquiry into misinformation and fake news. Arron Banks last week month sent letters to all of Collins’s constituents calling him “a disgrace” and “a snake in the grass”, and urging Leave.EU supporters to “put his position into question by joining the Conservatives and applying pressure from within the party”.</p><p>Both Mellon and Banks have declined to respond on the record to any of the question we have put to them.</p><p><i>*This article has been amended after contact with Mr Mellon to clarify 1) that Mr Mellon disputes claims made elsewhere in the media about the scale of his donation to TheKnow.eu, 2) that Mr Mellon's exposure to Russian investments has changed since the European referendum, 3) that the firm Mr Mellon senior sat on the board of was the UK subsidiary of Charlemagne Capital, George Town, Cayman Islands, 4) that Conister Banks has always been solvent and 5) the scale of Mr Mellon's investment in Body Silk.<br /></i></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">Arron Banks and Brexit’s offshore secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/revealed-arron-banks-s-staff-crunched-millions-of-voters-data-after-brexit-vote">Revealed: Arron Banks’s staff crunched millions of voters’ data after Brexit vote</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">Arron Banks lied to parliament about his Brexit campaign, say whistleblowers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit">Arron Banks and the missing £11m for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">Not everyone agrees with Arron Banks about the value of his diamond mines</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Russia UK Democracy and government Nigel Farage investigations Jim Mellon Brexit Arron Banks DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Iain Campbell Sat, 10 Nov 2018 08:50:38 +0000 Iain Campbell 120491 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: Arron Banks’s staff crunched millions of voters’ data after Brexit vote https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/revealed-arron-banks-s-staff-crunched-millions-of-voters-data-after-brexit-vote <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Whistleblower says Banks’s staff were told to ‘urgently’ process personal information on millions of voters after the referendum – and still had it months later. Why?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/banks.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555700/banks.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks. Image, BBC.</span></span></span></p><span>Senior staff at Arron Banks’s insurance company had access to the personal information of millions of British voters months after the Brexit vote, according to a new whistleblower from inside Banks’s Brexit campaign.</span><p>Under UK electoral law, this data should have been securely destroyed after the referendum – and Banks has previously claimed to MPs that there was no data sharing between his insurance business and his Leave.EU campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has already <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">revealed</a> that Banks misled Parliament about how his Brexit campaign was run, and the role played by staff at his Eldon insurance business. He also failed to declare the part played by Eldon staff to the Electoral Commission, as is required by law.</p><p dir="ltr">Now further emails seen by openDemocracy reveal for the first time the scale of the data warchest that Banks, Brexit’s largest donor, has built. He has since pledged to use his Leave.EU campaign to unseat anti-Brexit Tories and encourage his supporters to take over the Conservative party.</p><p dir="ltr">Damian Collins, chair of the parliamentary inquiry into fake news, said that openDemocracy’s latest revelations about Leave.EU and Eldon “suggest that they were potentially holding data that they knew they shouldn’t have, which would be a clear breach of the law, as well as contradicting, once again, what Arron Banks said to Parliament”.</p><p>It is not clear whether the data was used or whether it has now been destroyed. Banks did not respond to questions from openDemocracy.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Snake in the grass’</h2><p dir="ltr">Last month, Arron Banks <a href="https://twitter.com/davidbenjyman/status/1057267255912882176">wrote to every household in Damian Collins’s constituency</a>, calling the MP a “snake in the grass” and a “disgrace” after the chair of the parliamentary inquiry in fake news called for a Mueller-style investigation into Russian meddling in the Brexit referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/01/arron-banks-referred-to-agency-over-suspected-offences-in-brexit-campaign">National Crime Agency</a> has since announced it is investigating Banks over his £8m Brexit donations, saying there were reasonable grounds to suspect Banks was “not the true source” of the money.</p><p>The Information Commissioner’s Office has also told Eldon Insurance and Leave.EU it will fine them £135,000 for “serious breaches” of data laws. In one instance, more than one million emails marketing Banks’s insurance business, Go Skippy, were sent to Leave.EU subscribers.</p><p>The ICO is currently investigating whether Eldon Insurance in turn shared the personal information of its customers with Leave.EU, which could be another breach of the law.</p><p dir="ltr">Now, new information obtained by openDemocracy suggests that senior Eldon staff had access to far more electoral data from Leave.EU than previously reported.</p><p dir="ltr">In the run-up to the Brexit vote, Leave.EU received electoral registers from councils across the UK. The registers contain a wealth of information about voters, includings names, addresses, and postcodes. Registered participants in an upcoming election are <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/162824/List-of-people-entitled-to-be-supplied-with-the-electoral-register.pdf">allowed</a> to request the registers.</p><p dir="ltr">Electoral Commission guidance states that registers “should be securely destroyed… once the purpose for which the register has been supplied has expired”. Failure to do “would ultimately be for the police to investigate”.</p><p>But in September 2016, three months after the Brexit referendum, a Leave.EU staffer wrote an email to campaign CEO Liz Bilney and a senior Eldon insurance staffer saying that “the electoral data hasn’t yet been deleted”.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/yO2-6Z8zP98KX-2RMYfWH1li98ZzDA30VF9K1p3UYQ6ipfYozuKsUmY_aU8S0lxTn85TKq73wdJSfb6O-lG035zEhwjSHZGD1dYWVJD-A0VM3q_HJUUQh5T_kZfmKbDZ5_xwH0p-" alt="" width="602" height="275" /></span></span></p><p>A later response said: “We have deleted that data that Ross used from \\SKIPPY\Electoral Registers$\”. This email was sent by a staffer at Southern Rock, Banks’s Gibraltar-based insurance firm. The file prefix – ‘Skippy’ – is very similar to Go Skippy, the brand name under which Eldon Insurance trades.</p><p dir="ltr">Why Southern Rock, a Banks-owned insurance company based in Gibraltar, would have access to personal information about tens of millions of British voters is not clear. Among the email’s recipients are staff with Rock Services email addresses. Banks has said that Rock Services provided the £8m that he gave to the Brexit campaign.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Personal data crunched</h2><p>Banks has maintained that there was no data sharing between Eldon and Leave.EU, telling Parliament previously that his insurance business had an “exceptionally strong data control culture to prevent any misuse of data”.</p><p>Last weekend, openDemocracy reported that Leave.EU received hundreds of electoral registers from across the UK.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/UUTCPCJLmlgTlbJ_cTQtrEO2uYbl5dylllfQFDWs0KJkK-2e5D9OC-iwCywoRHvvrzhp8LtsWoJfwcvNrk_MA3S6XpJd9-5qZ3gw_mj36tYl1VEXoxKHZwhY4lVsV2zC9nn0ope3" alt="" width="492" height="278" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In early June, a few weeks before the Brexit vote, Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney complained that the campaign had collected data on only 14.7 million voters. Around the same time, a small team was created inside Banks’s Bristol HQ to format the electoral registers. “Nobody was told what the point of doing all this was,” someone familiar with the process told openDemocracy</p><p dir="ltr">By referendum day, the huge task of formatting all the electoral registers was far from complete. But just days after the unexpected Brexit vote, a small group of Leave.EU employees began processing the rest of the registers at Lysander House, Banks’s Bristol HQ and home to both Eldon Insurance and Leave.EU, openDemocracy has been told.</p><p dir="ltr">Pressure was put on staff to process the electoral registers more quickly, even though the campaign was over. “There was a level of urgency with it. People were getting angry emails saying, ‘This must be done.’ I didn’t know what it was for,” the source said.</p><p>Once all of the electoral rolls had been formatted, the spreadsheets were sent to a senior Eldon employee, the source claimed. How the formatted registers – which would have contained detailed data about tens of millions of British voters – were then used is not clear.</p><p dir="ltr">“We would format the registers and then send them on to a guy at Eldon and he would do whatever they did with them,” a Leave.EU source told openDemocracy. “I asked them why we were still doing this [after the Brexit referendum] but nobody gave me answer.” Arron Banks has declined to answer openDemocracy’s questions.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has previously said that he believes big data is the future of both politics and business. In an email sent on 24 May 2016, an Eldon staffer says that “Arron [Banks] and Liz [Bilney]” want the website of the Go Skippy – the brand used by Eldon Insurance – “fit for purpose in line with the big data project”. There is no evidence that electoral roll information forms part of the “big data project”.</p><p dir="ltr"><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/WHzmsGvYrJ15GiUy0x4wW9H3F_lwXFJrf2OQmOkWx0itI1S2Hk7HE_8Q25x1SbrF_7oQBTEXIJjMgC0UTO91TNdDSu5ShYYhjdWrR51i-WFNEqJdZ1NIDC5IwJli00C9TXZyGPEd" alt="" width="537" height="370" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In December 2016, Banks set up a data analytics company, <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/10529695">Big Data Dolphins</a>. The following year, Banks <a href="https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-4958846/Brexit-bad-boy-net-millions-insurance-float.html">told journalists</a> that Eldon was using the same “artificial intelligence experts” that Leave.EU had deployed to target swing voters during the Brexit vote.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Mueller-style inquiry’</h2><p dir="ltr">Commenting on openDemocracy’s story, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: "These further explosive revelations need to be examined as part of the ongoing investigations by the Information Commissioner, National Crime Agency and the police.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“It is becoming clearer by the day that multiple crimes were committed by the pro-Brexit campaign and we are only just beginning to understand the extent of these. That is why there are growing calls for a full Mueller-style inquiry like the one going on in the States to get to the bottom of whether the EU referendum was subverted."&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Kyle Taylor, of campaign group Fair Vote, said: "The scale of this illegal operation is even larger than perhaps anyone thought likely. </p><p>“It also offers yet another example of why there must be an independent public inquiry into the EU referendum. This is much bigger than Brexit. It's about the sanctity of and trust in our democratic system. Our very way of life is at stake."</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has so far not responded to openDemocracy’s requests for comment.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">Arron Banks lied to parliament about his Brexit campaign, say whistleblowers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-whistleblowers-say-arron-banks-misled-viewers-o">Whistleblowers say Arron Banks ‘misled’ viewers on BBC Andrew Marr show</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">Arron Banks and Brexit’s offshore secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit">Arron Banks and the missing £11m for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">Not everyone agrees with Arron Banks about the value of his diamond mines</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/what-we-learned-about-arron-banks-at-fake-news-inquiry">What we learned about Arron Banks at the fake news inquiry</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/following-banks-money-who-provided-payment-in-paraphernalia">Following Arron Banks&#039; money: who delivered the payment in paraphernalia?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government investigations Arron Banks Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Fri, 09 Nov 2018 08:47:25 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 120516 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Whistleblowers say Arron Banks ‘misled’ viewers on BBC Andrew Marr show https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-whistleblowers-say-arron-banks-misled-viewers-o <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Brexit funder said staff working for his controversial Leave campaign were put on different contracts, and declared to elections watchdog. But evidence seen by openDemocracy tells a very different story.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/screen-shot-2018-11-04-at-20-59-06-1024x565.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/screen-shot-2018-11-04-at-20-59-06-1024x565.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks on Marr, BBC.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks has been accused by MPs of “not telling the truth” after whistleblowers told openDemocracy that the Leave.EU founder misled viewers about his controversial Brexit campaign on Sunday’s Andrew Marr show. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Banks, who is now under criminal investigation over his £8m Brexit donations, told the BBC that staff at his Eldon Insurance company who worked on his Leave.EU campaign were put on separate contracts. Banks also claimed that this arrangement was declared to the UK’s electoral watchdog, as is required by law.</p><p dir="ltr">But interviews with former Eldon staff and documents seen by openDemocracy suggest that employees regularly worked on both Banks’s insurance business and his political campaign. “There were no separate contracts for the Leave work. None at all. You were just told to do that at the same time as working on the insurance business,” a former Eldon staffer told openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission also said that it "has no record of Leave.EU reporting services it received from Eldon Insurance for the referendum." </p><p dir="ltr">Banks has been under pressure to explain the relationship between his insurance business and Leave.EU after <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit?fbclid=IwAR3RjxcG1fHEZ7ghlIC8iT9RaF3wc4dkDXTXMn7u9f3RtstBi1VIliw1XWA">openDemocracy revealed that staff worked for both organisations ahead of the Brexit referendum</a>. Any such work in the months before the election should be declared under electoral law, and Mr Banks has repeatedly denied any such work taking place. In June, he told parliament that there was no overlap between Eldon and Leave.EU. </p><p dir="ltr">Damian Collins MP, chair of parliament’s inquiry into fake news, said that openDemocracy’s latest revelations show that Banks is “not telling the truth once again”.</p><p dir="ltr">““[Banks] was really clear to the committee that Eldon was kept totally separate from Leave.EU but now we have former Eldon employees saying that they worked on both the referendum and for Eldon. Once again it appears that he has not been straight with the answers he gave at the committee,” Collins told openDemocracy. </p><p dir="ltr">Potential sharing of voters’ personal data between Leave.EU and Eldon insurance has formed part of an Information Commissioner’s Office investigation, which is due to report Tuesday.</p><p dir="ltr">“There are really important issues as well in terms of data protection law and electoral law if staff at an insurance company were simultaneously working on a political campaign which they should not have done. Banks, knowing that they shouldn’t do it, had said publicly that they hadn’t,” said Collins.</p><h2>'It's just what you were told to do'</h2><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has obtained a copy of a contract signed by an Eldon Insurance employee who often worked for Leave.EU. The contract, with a start date just weeks before the referendum, makes no mention of Leave.EU. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />The same employee was frequently asked to do Leave.EU work after the date that their contract with Eldon signed, according to emails leaked to openDemocracy. One email states that the employee spent half of their time in June on Leave.EU work.</p><p dir="ltr">Another former Eldon employee said that they had also only signed a contract with the insurance company, even though they were frequently asked to work on Leave.EU material in the run-up to the Brexit vote. An Eldon insurance contract signed by a third former staffer makes no mention of working for any Leave campaigns even though emails clearly show that they worked for Leave.EU and other Brexit groups.</p><p dir="ltr">“We worked for all the different groups. I worked for Leave and I never had a contract for Leave. It was just what you were told to do,” a source said. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Suspicion of donations from ‘impermissible source’</h2><p dir="ltr">Last week the National Crime Agency announced that it was investigating Arron Banks and his Leave.EU campaign after the Electoral Commission announced that it had found “reasonable grounds” to believe that Banks’s £8m donations had come from an impermissible source.</p><p dir="ltr">Media reports alleged that in early 2016, the then Home Secretary Theresa May declined a request by one of the security services to investigate Arron Banks. In response to a freedom of information request submitted by openDemocracy last month, the Home Office refused to confirm or deny whether they held any relevant material relating to Banks and Leave.EU. </p><p dir="ltr">“The most prominent reason to neither confirm nor deny that we hold the information requested is that doing so would impede the future formulation of government policy,” the Home Office said. openDemocracy will be challenging this. </p><p dir="ltr">Commenting on openDemocracy’s latest revelations, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “In his attempts to bluster and obfuscate, Banks only managed to tie himself up further in knots with his contradictory or evasive answers. That is why it is so important that we finally have a proper criminal investigation into this whole matter. It is vital that the NCA devotes sufficient resources to this investigation so it can progress quickly and reassure the public that the 2016 Brexit referendum was not subverted.”</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said: “During the EU referendum, campaign groups could accept donations – including of services – from permissible companies, and could pay for services.</p><p dir="ltr">“The Electoral Commission has no record of Leave.EU reporting services it received from Eldon Insurance for the referendum.”</p><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks was approached for comment but has yet to respond.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit">Arron Banks lied to parliament about his Brexit campaign, say whistleblowers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government investigations Brexit Arron Banks DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Mon, 05 Nov 2018 18:12:44 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 120474 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Arron Banks lied to parliament about his Brexit campaign, say whistleblowers https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/breaking-arron-banks-lied-to-parliament-about-his-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Major Brexit bankroller, now under investigation by the National Crime Agency, “deliberately misled” parliament about his insurance company’s political work, and amassed campaign data ‘warchest’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/arron banks_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/arron banks_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Brexit donor Arron Banks lied to MPs about the political work that his insurance company did for his controversial Leave campaign, according to whistleblowers who worked at Banks’s Bristol headquarters during the Brexit vote.</p><p dir="ltr">Hundreds of emails leaked by former employees of Eldon Insurance and Rock Services to openDemocracy show insurance staff frequently working on the Leave campaign in the run-up to the 2016 referendum. Banks, who was referred to the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/2401bf9a-ddd1-11e8-8f50-cbae5495d92b">National Crime Agency this week</a>, repeatedly told MPs that his insurance businesses and his political campaigning were separate. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Damian Collins, chair of parliament's inquiry into fake news and disinformation, said that the evidence appeared to "flatly contradict" what Banks told his committee in June and that Banks could have "deliberately misled the committee and parliament on an important point." </p><p dir="ltr">“If Eldon employees were being paid to work on the campaign, it should have been a declared expense. We asked him directly if he’d used his insurance employees to work on the campaigns and he said they didn’t,” Collins added. </p><p dir="ltr">Under British electoral law, campaigns cannot co-ordinate or ‘work together’ unless they declare their spending jointly. However, emails and testimony from insiders suggest that insurance staff in Bristol frequently worked not just for Leave.EU but also for other Brexit campaigns at the same time. This was not declared to the Electoral Commission, raising questions about whether Banks’s campaign could have breached electoral law (<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44080096">again</a>).</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy’s long-running investigation into Banks’s political and business interests, in collaboration with the Bristol Cable, also found that:</p><ol><li>Eldon Insurance employees were directed to work for Banks’s Brexit campaign, contradicting statements made by Banks and his colleague Andy Wigmore in parliament.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /><br /></li><li>Insurance staff were frequently assigned to work on material for Banks’s Leave.EU and other Brexit campaigns. This work was not declared on submissions to the Electoral Commission, despite being a requirement of UK electoral law.<br /><br /></li><li>Banks’s Brexit campaign amassed data from tens of millions of British voters through the UK electoral register. Former Leave.EU staff have raised questions about whether this data was destroyed after the referendum, as stipulated by British electoral law.<br /><br /></li><li>The NCA is investigating whether Banks is the “true source” of £8m he provided to Leave.EU and Better for the Country Limited. We can report for the first time that Better for the Country had spent £1.5m by December 2015, two months before the referendum date had even been announced.<br /><br /></li><li>Eldon and Leave.EU staff at Banks’s Bristol HQ also worked for UKIP at the same time, with Leave.EU’s office even depicted as a UKIP membership centre in a party magazine. Banks told parliament in June that he “never had a role” in UKIP.</li></ol><h2 dir="ltr">Mixing business and politics</h2><p dir="ltr">In June, <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/oral/85344.html">Arron Banks told the DCMS committee</a> that Leave.EU and his Eldon Insurance business were separate organisations with different staff. Leave.EU did not “use staff who had previously worked in the insurance business,” Wigmore told MPs.</p><p dir="ltr">But employees worked across different political campaigns at the same time as working for Banks’s insurance company, according to emails and interviews with former Eldon and Leave.EU staff. </p><p dir="ltr">An ex-Eldon insurance employee who worked at the company in the run-up to the referendum <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/03/arron-banks-faces-new-claims-of-misleading-mps-over-brexit">told the Observer today</a>: “I made it absolutely clear that I didn’t want to work on the political stuff. I wasn’t comfortable with it. I didn’t want to be complicit in it. Some of these images were really horrible. The immigrants and refugee stuff. But there were always these urgent requests coming in. You were told to stop what you were doing and do something for Leave.EU or Grassroots Out or the GO movement.</p><p dir="ltr">“There were quite a lot of spats about it. People were frozen out if they refused to work on it.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Calls for Mueller-style investigation</h2><p dir="ltr">Banks, the self-styled ‘bad boy of Brexit’, has already been found to have misrepresented his connections with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jul/08/revealed-leaveeu-campaign-met-russian-officials-as-many-as-11-times">Russian officials</a> and the value of his <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/.../not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-valu...">investments</a>. As openDemocracy has repeatedly shown, huge <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">question marks</a> hang over the true extent of his wealth.</p><p dir="ltr">This week the National Crime Agency announced it was investigating allegations of multiple criminal offences by Banks and his Leave.EU campaign. Banks has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/01/arron-banks-referred-to-agency-over-suspected-offences-in-brexit-campaign">rejected the allegations</a> and said that they are motivated by political bias.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has also recently boasted that he would <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/arron-banks-join-tories-and-unseat-the-traitor-theresa-6gdc8kqdn">use Leave.EU’s support base to unseat Conservative MPs </a>he believes are not committed to a hard Brexit. Last week, he <a href="https://twitter.com/davidbenjyman/status/1057267255912882176">wrote to every household in the constituency of Damian Collins MP</a>, calling the Tory chair of the parliamentary inquiry into ‘fake news’ a ‘snake in the grass’ and a ‘disgrace’, after Collins called for a Mueller-style investigation into Russian meddling in the Brexit referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Collins’s DCMS committee previously published evidence and testimony supplied by an ex-Cambridge Analytica employee Brittany Kaiser about how Leave.EU employees used Eldon insurance data to target voters. Banks denied these claims. </p><p dir="ltr">The relationship between Eldon, UKIP and Leave.EU is one of the focuses of an investigation by the Information Commissioner into the use of data in the referendum. The final report will be published on Tuesday and the ICO head, Elizabeth Denham, will answer MPs inquiry in a hearing of the DCMS committee.</p><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks has declined to answer any of openDemocracy’s or the Observer’s questions. Earlier this year, he denied to the Observer that any Eldon employees had undertaken any work for Leave.EU. </p><p dir="ltr">Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: "I hope that the National Crime Agency will consider these serious new findings as part of their investigations into Mr Banks and his financial affairs. It's already clear that parliament was misled on a number of central issues and that serious and growing concerns about the true source of Mr Banks's wealth remain unexamined.”<br /><br />Leave.EU has already been fined for <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44080096">breaking British electoral law</a> during the Brexit campaign, and has been referred to the police for potential criminal charges.<br /><br />However, openDemocracy recently revealed that the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">Met Police has yet to open an investigation</a> into either Leave.EU or Vote Leave. Conservative MP Anna Soubry said: “We need to have a full and thorough investigation into all these allegations and they must be completed as a matter of grave urgency”</p><h2 dir="ltr">'Propaganda' – and misleading parliament</h2><p dir="ltr">Without Leave.EU, according to Arron Banks, there would be no Brexit. In his autobiography, Banks claims that Leave.EU’s social media team was reaching almost 20 million people a week ahead of the 2016 referendum. </p><p dir="ltr">The campaign was run by only around 30 staff on the top floor of Lysander House, a boxy glass-fronted building on the edge of Bristol that is also home to dozens of Banks’s companies, including Eldon Insurance. Here, around 20 junior Leave.EU employees sat by rows of phones, calling potential donors and supporters. Separately, a ‘political team’, directed by Banks, orchestrated the creation of controversial content for social media that was produced by a small pool of designers.</p><p dir="ltr">When Banks appeared before parliament in June, he assured MPs that Leave.EU staff were “clearly demarked” in Lysander House and were separate from the Eldon insurance business based there. Banks’s sidekick Andy Wigmore told parliament that Leave.EU had not used “<a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/oral/85344.html">staff who had previously worked in the insurance business</a>”. </p><p dir="ltr">However, this supposed division between Leave.EU and Eldon insurance simply did not exist. Hundreds of emails and documents obtained by openDemocracy, and interviews with former Leave.EU staff, show that Eldon staff were intimately involved in the Brexit campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">A longtime Banks employee, Pamela Palmer, assembled and managed Leave.EU’s call centre. Palmer is listed on Eldon’s <a href="https://eldoninsurance.co.uk/careers/what-our-team-members-say/">website</a> as an operations manager, where she is quoted saying “I have been part of the Eldon team for a number of years.” Palmer was “in charge of all of us kids”, says one former Leave.EU staffer. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 20.30.26.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 20.30.26.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="680" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In March 2016, Palmer wrote that she had received “1 million phone numbers and the members data”. Palmer had email addresses for Leave.EU, Eldon Insurance and <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/11717415/Millionaire-Jim-Mellon-backs-20million-anti-politics-campaign-to-leave-EU-as-name-revealed.html">theKnow.eu</a>, a forerunner to Leave.EU <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/11717415/Millionaire-Jim-Mellon-backs-20million-anti-politics-campaign-to-leave-EU-as-name-revealed.html">bankrolled</a> by Banks’s close associate Jim Mellon. Liz Bilney was listed as theKnow.EU’s CEO, and the <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20150828053958/http://theknow.eu:80/">campaign’s website</a> encouraged supporters to enter their names, telephone numbers and addresses into theKnow.EU database. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 20.31.42.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 20.31.42.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Another Eldon veteran, Holly Gardner, described herself as “project manager on secondment to Leave.EU”, which she lists as being a part of the Eldon Group on her LinkedIn profile. Many of those working for Leave.EU had email addresses belonging to another Banks’s company, Rock Services, which also paid their wages. Leave.EU was, and still is, based within Eldon Insurance’s Bristol HQ.</p><p dir="ltr">A former Eldon employee who worked on Leave.EU material said the campaign was practically an extension of the insurance business: “It was the same people involved in everything. It was totally incestuous. They were all absolutely the same thing. Different heads but the same body. It was basically a giant Hydra.”</p><p dir="ltr">Hundreds of emails show Leave.EU staff assigning political work to Eldon Insurance employees. Banks himself is included in some of this correspondence. </p><p dir="ltr"><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/1HBRZ1jwWKbRT0mRSoRcGbx93my4wiJDOzY1LzLOE2Hl5oD56OXzOHUl1Lfu4pzacD-hr9a2zVzUKOHyqRiMblt85Ha8arvy_VL8M-bnMD-sEGXRVH2nQTsPxXxq-AhK1Wvu-A7I" alt="" width="927" height="269" /></p><p dir="ltr">Under UK election law, participants in political campaigns must declare any services that they receive during the campaign. Although our evidence shows Eldon staff working on Leave.EU work, Banks’s campaign did not declare any services from Eldon insurance in its spending return.</p><p dir="ltr">“During the EU referendum, campaign groups could accept donations – including of services – from permissible companies, and could pay for services,” a spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said.</p><p dir="ltr">“The Electoral Commission has no record of Leave.EU reporting services it received from Eldon Insurance for the referendum.” </p><p dir="ltr">Banks’s insurance staff were involved indirectly in the Brexit campaign, too. A few weeks before the Brexit vote, Banks invited a small group of insurance employees to view an anti-immigration video before it was posted on Leave.EU’s Facebook channel. </p><p dir="ltr">“One of them commented ‘it wasn’t informative enough’,” a former Leave.EU staffer recalled. “Banks said ‘it isn’t meant to be informative. It’s propaganda’.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">Better for the Country?</h2><p dir="ltr">In late May 2015, Banks created a company called <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09609018">Better for the Country</a> Limited. Just weeks earlier, David Cameron’s Conservatives won a general election majority on a manifesto that included a commitment to hold a referendum on European Union membership. Better for the Country donated at least £2.3m to various Leave groups between February and June 2016, according to filings with the <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=better%20for%20the%20country%20&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;isIrishSourceYes=true&amp;isIrishSourceNo=true&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;register=gb&amp;register=ni&amp;register=none&amp;optCols=Register&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=IsIrishSource&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">Electoral Commission</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">This week, the National Crime Agency launched an investigation into Better for the Country Limited and Leave.EU, after the Electoral Commission found that there were “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/01/arron-banks-referred-to-agency-over-suspected-offences-in-brexit-campaign">reasonable ground</a>s” to suspect that Banks was not the “true source” of cash he provided to both outfits.</p><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission said that Better for the Country and Leave.EU spent at least £2.9m on Brexit, but our investigation suggests that the true figure could be much higher.</p><p dir="ltr">Under UK election rules, only campaign spending in the final ten weeks of the campaign – the “referendum period” – needs to be reported to the Electoral Commission. The campaign could only spend up to £700,000 during this period. Leave.EU declared spending £693,094. </p><p dir="ltr">But by December 2015 – six months before the Brexit vote and before the referendum date had even been set – Banks’s Better for the Country Limited had already spent more than £1.5m. In an email dated 11 December, Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney is told that Better for the Country has “spent £1,512,689 so far”. This spending was legal but did not have to be declared to the Electoral Commission so this is the first time detailed information has been published revealing exactly how much Banks’s campaign was spending long before polling day.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 20.33.35.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 20.33.35.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>UKIP? Or Leave.EU? Or both?</h2><p dir="ltr">Before Brexit, Arron Banks was best known as UKIP’s biggest donor. In 2014, he pledged £1m to the party – although he ended up giving just over £400,000. During the ‘fake news’ inquiry in parliament, Banks distanced himself from UKIP. Asked in parliament how he demarcated his roles in UKIP and Leave.EU, Banks said that he “never had a role in UKIP”.</p><p dir="ltr">But UKIP appears to have been very much involved in Leave.EU’s organisation.</p><p dir="ltr">In February 2016, a UKIP magazine published a photograph of a visit to the party’s “Bristol membership office”. The photo is taken in Leave.EU’s office in Lysander House. Pamela Palmer is described as being the call centre manager. Another Leave.EU staffer is listed as “UKIP renewals leader”, according to emails obtained by openDemocracy. Her LinkedIn lists her employment at the time as a team manager at Eldon Insurance.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 20.35.04.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 20.35.04.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="569" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Source: UKIP magazine, February 2016</span></span></span> That same month an Eldon insurance employee emailed Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney asking whether “we will be sending out UKIP emails from our office.” Employees for Eldon and Rock Services worked on UKIP messaging materials, including mailshots to UKIP supporters, and messages from Nigel Farage.</p><p dir="ltr">In May, Bilney was <a href="https://news.sky.com/story/leaveeu-fined-70000-over-eu-referendum-funding-and-spending-11367242">reported to the Metropolitan police</a> for her role in Leave.EU’s numerous alleged breaches of electoral law. On Thursday, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-46065111/leaveeu-chief-executive-liz-bilney-welcomes-police-investigation">Bilney said she “welcomed”</a> the National Crime Agency investigation, saying she was confident she and Banks would be exonerated.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Data on ‘tens of millions of voters’ </h2><p dir="ltr">The source of all the personal information used by Leave.EU’s call centre to target voters from across the country is unclear. A former staffer said that the campaign had a database with names, phone numbers and emails. But Leave.EU team leaders seemed unsure of the source of the data. “You’d ask the team leader and they’d say Facebook or ‘I don’t know’,” an insider told openDemocracy. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In March 2016, a few months before the Brexit vote, Leave.EU staff began asking for copies of the electoral register across Britain. Electoral registers contain a wealth of information about voters, includings names, addresses, and postcodes. Registered participants are <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/162824/List-of-people-entitled-to-be-supplied-with-the-electoral-register.pdf">allowed</a> to request the registers ahead of an election. </p><p dir="ltr">Leave.EU received registers from at least 64 councils, according to documents released to openDemocracy under Freedom of Information laws, but a former staffer said that the campaign received data from every local authority in the UK, which would include tens of millions of voters.</p><p dir="ltr">In early June 2016, Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney sent an email complaining that the campaign had only gathered records of 14.7million voters. “I’m shocked, we need all the data in,” Bilney told Palmer.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/pFgw5XDzOBm7hkruvapEng3lxArm-w5-WhTptQ8c_4jspEyydiJ9qJxZj2Lld3e8BmK1AwrK-zVlQIT4KEiI656qOCJvSTN4fodkdmI7YcV2ZaIDnxRz1CIKELpopQpUyNFAATGn" alt="" width="430" height="662" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Staff from Banks’s other companies were brought in to help with the mammoth task of requesting the details of tens of millions of voters. An email released to openDemocracy following a Freedom of Information request shows an Eldon staff member chasing Runnymede council for its electoral register. </p><p dir="ltr">A junior Leave.EU staffer was tasked with formatting the electoral registers. &nbsp;A week before the Brexit vote, three Eldon temps were seconded to assist. All the data was entered into Excel and edited to ensure that it was all presented in the same format.</p><p dir="ltr">Leave.EU staff who worked with the electoral registers said they did not know what happened to the data after the Brexit referendum, leaving open the possibility that it could have been transferred to third parties, including Eldon Insurance. The Electoral Commission says this information “should be securely destroyed” once the purpose for which it has been supplied has expired. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.</p><p dir="ltr">In parliament in June, Jo Stevens MP asked Banks if any data gathered by Leave.EU was shared with his insurance companies. Banks replied: “I do not believe so”.&nbsp;<span>Adverts for Banks’s insurance firm GoSkippy have often been sent to people on Leave.EU’s mailing list. Banks has previously defended the practice, saying: “Why shouldn’t I? It’s my data."</span></p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy also discovered that Eldon staff requested electoral registers on behalf of both Leave.EU and other Brexit groups. Pamela Palmer sent numerous requests for registers to councils for the register on Leave.EU. In a letter dated 5 April 5 2016, Richard Murphy, of Grassroots Out, wrote that Palmer was authorised to accept electoral registers on behalf of his Brexit group.</p><p dir="ltr"><span><span><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/puXs3k-_z1ZA7fEosr76ljbUuOyIsLtAZvS_MRHOZ2yYz7nNVmEobXQXdsWpDWTxA69YtlQp9ZJsidFrxjjIn-C3YRMA_eEkoYTwZmL-w2Aks3rwMx3pJ638WiELLGm1hCRID8Hk" alt="" width="624" height="504" /></span></span></p><p>On 21 April, less than a week after the start of the official referendum period, Holly Gardner wrote to Pamela Palmer at Leave.EU with “attached GO data”. GO could refer to Grassroots Out or GO Movement, which were both registered Brexit campaigns that were led by Tory MP Peter Bone. Gardner’s email suggests that Leave.EU had access to, and was using, data collected by GO.</p><p><span><span><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/Ec0NscW3vTER0gZ7bwP_TvD7djzxzIF875JchsQqHCnQRH15AHehiKAiQLmVcG_M6vDRd57biBBz9LiRdvoFp2jZ9IbINsGYabQjoE4vdNeQvrwfVnjtecxkW9-IRrDLEWrPdGjw" alt="" width="624" height="509" /></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">On May 6 2016, just weeks before the Brexit vote, a ‘creative team leader’ at Eldon wrote to Liz Bilney to discuss the ‘hand over’ of the Grassroots Out website which was controlled by Leave.EU staff. Insiders told openDemocracy that they were continually asked to work on material for Grassroots Out and other Brexit campaigns, including UKIP.</p><p dir="ltr">“I honestly couldn’t tell you what the differences were between the campaigns. We were just told to change the header or the footer depending on which campaign it was for but they were clones of each other,” the source said. </p><p dir="ltr">Under UK election law, different campaigns must declare if they are “working together” during the final ten weeks of the campaign. According to Electoral Commission filings, Leave.EU and Grassroots Out were registered as separate campaigns during the Brexit referendum, which means they could not coordinate campaign activities. </p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, the official Vote Leave campaign was <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/vote-leave-campaign-eu-referendum-spending-limits-brexit-beleave-boris-johnson-a8430191.html">fined</a> for breaking its spending limit by coordinating with a smaller pro-Brexit campaign. </p><h2>Pushing Tories into a hardline Brexit</h2><p dir="ltr">Banks has recently pledged to use Leave.EU to push the Tories into a hardline Brexit position. "The best way to secure Brexit and our country's future is via the Conservative Party,” the Leave.EU chief wrote in the Times in August. "To that end, I am urging the 90,000 members of my Brexit campaign Leave.EU and the 1.4million who follow us on social media to join the Tories and have a say." </p><p dir="ltr">Banks has sent tens of thousands of Leave.EU’s supporters emails and social media messages telling them to join the Tories. Letters on Leave.EU headed paper were sent to constituents of the chair of Damian Collins MP – including people who were not supporters of Banks’s Brexit campaign. </p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy asked Arron Banks where the data used to target Collins’s constituents came from, as well as numerous other questions. So far we have yet to receive a response. </p><p dir="ltr">We also asked Andy Wigmore and Liz Bilney about the claims made in this piece. Neither have responded. </p><p dir="ltr"><em>Adam Cantwell-Corn of the Bristol Cable contributed additional reporting on this piece.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>This piece was edited on 4 November to reflect that Jim Mellon did not create theKnow.eu but donated a <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/11717415/Millionaire-Jim-Mellon-backs-20million-anti-politics-campaign-to-leave-EU-as-name-revealed.html">reported £100,000</a> to the campaign in 2015 and had pledged to give more.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit">Arron Banks and the missing £11m for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">Arron Banks and Brexit’s offshore secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/revealed-met-police-ignored-brexit-campaign-evidence-for-month">Revealed: Met Police ignored Brexit campaign evidence for months</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">Not everyone agrees with Arron Banks about the value of his diamond mines</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government investigations Arron Banks Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Sat, 03 Nov 2018 19:49:51 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 120439 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: Met Police ignored Brexit campaign evidence for months https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/revealed-met-police-ignored-brexit-campaign-evidence-for-month <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Scotland Yard claimed it didn’t receive key evidence about Leave campaigns until September. But the evidence was ready from May. They just didn’t bother to collect it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/30376111876_4e6b9bb21f_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/30376111876_4e6b9bb21f_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>London Mayor Sadiq Khan was told by the Met that it hadn't "recieved" the documents, when really the police just hadn't bothered to pick them up. Image, Lee, Flickr, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Metropolitan Police Service ignored potential criminal evidence gathered by the Electoral Commission on three key pro-Brexit campaign groups for four months, openDemocracy can reveal. </p><p dir="ltr">Responding to widespread public criticism after openDemocracy revealed that the Met has not even <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">begun an official investigation</a> into Vote Leave, Arron Banks’s Leave.EU and Darren Grimes’s BeLeave campaign, Scotland Yard this week told London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, that it had only recently “received” the Electoral Commission’s evidence and therefore has had only weeks to assess its importance. </p><p dir="ltr">However, we can reveal that the Met was informed by the Commission in both May and July that evidence was ready to be picked up. </p><p dir="ltr">Although the Brexit timetable was reaching critically important stages, Scotland Yard officers then took till late August before asking the Commission for its files, and took a further three weeks to pick them up. </p><p dir="ltr">In normal London traffic, the distance between Scotland Yard’s Embankment headquarters and the Commission’s office in Bunhill Row in the City is around 15 minutes. </p><p dir="ltr">Commenting on the Met’s failure to get round to collecting the evidence for months, and their attempts to blame the Electoral Commission, senior Labour MP Jon Trickett said that “if politicians and their campaigns break the law, they should be treated just the same as everyone else”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Cynical or incompetence?</h2><p dir="ltr">A Whitehall official with close ties to the Electoral Commission called the Met’s lack of urgency “either staggeringly cynical or organisationally incompetent. And because the law is the job they are trusted with, giving an official explanation that does not stand up to scrutiny, now leaves them [the MPS] with serious questions to answer.”</p><p dir="ltr">When questioned about the police’s inaction by Green Party co-leader Si<span class="st">â</span>n Berry in the London Assembly this week, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said his office had been told by Scotland Yard that a report <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">published by openDemocracy last week</a>, which cited “political sensitivities” as a factor in the stalled police investigations, &nbsp;was “inaccurate”. </p><p dir="ltr">However no one at the mayor’s office contacted openDemocracy for any comment, information or correspondence received from the Met. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Our reporting – which was later not challenged by the officer who initially spoke to openDemocracy – revealed that no investigations into three pro-Brexit groups (including the Vote Leave, the official campaign fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove) had been started by the Metropolitan Police. The officer said that “political sensitivities” had been considered, and in a subsequent email clarified the issue by stating that “political sensitivities” related to “any allegation or referral relating to an election.”</p><p dir="ltr">According to the Electoral Commission, investigations into the Leave.EU and Vote Leave campaigns were concluded in reports on May 11 and July 17 respectively. The commission said that in both cases “we immediately referred the responsible person for each organisation to the police. At the same time, we informed the police of the referrals and explained that the evidence was ready to pass to them.” </p><p dir="ltr">The spokesman went on to say “The police asked for our files in late August and collected them within three weeks.</p><p dir="ltr">“You may have further questions about the timetable for requesting the files. These would be a matter for the police to explain.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Evidence waiting</h2><p dir="ltr">Sadiq Khan told the Assembly that Scotland Yard was now considering 2000 pages of evidence, adding that officials from the Crown Prosecution Service were also involved in the exercise. He said that as the matter was “operational” he could not comment further. </p><p dir="ltr">The Commission’s two referrals to Scotland Yard centred on the two main Leave campaigns. The first report, delivered on May 11 focused on Leave.EU. The organisation was fined £70,000 for overspending by at least £77,380. Its campaign chief, Liz Bilney, was referred to the police. The group’s co-founder, Arron Banks, said the electoral watchdog had been engaged in a “ridiculous witch hunt.” He called the commission a “Blairite swamp creation packed full of remoaners.”</p><p dir="ltr">The second referral was on July 17 and centred on Vote Leave, the officially designated leave group fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. It was fined £61,000 after the commission found “significant evidence” of illegal unreported coordination between Vote Leave and BeLeave, a campaign run by fashion student, Darren Grimes. The commission identified an overspend of over £500,000 on the legal limit of £7 million, with significant funds channelled to BeLeave. </p><p dir="ltr">Among the evidence folio sent to the Met was information on the £675,000 spending by BeLeave with the digital company Aggregate IQ. The commission stated that this spending should have been declared by Vote Leave. </p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave was co-founded by Michael Gove’s former adviser, Dominic Cummings. Its campaign committee included the former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson and the former Brexit minister and European Research Group co-leader, Steve Baker MP. </p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, shadow cabinet minister Jon Trickett said: “It’s important to acknowledge that the police have been stretched to breaking point by almost a decade of Conservative cuts. But faith in democracy is too fragile to leave serious questions unanswered for a prolonged period of time.</p><p dir="ltr">“Those involved in this investigation must do everything they can to reassure the public that if politicians and their campaigns break the law, they will be treated in just the same way as everyone else.”</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/14/met-police-damian-collins-no-investigation-leave-campaigners-data-misuse">the Observer last week</a>, the Conservative MP Damian Collins called for an investigation into the Leave campaigns akin to the investigation of the Trump campaign by US special counsel Robert Mueller.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this week, SNP chief whip, Pete Wishart, asked Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions about <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">openDemocracy’s article</a>, telling the Commons: “The Vote Leave campaign might just have cheated its way to victory”, yet “the police refuse to investigate, because of what they say are political sensitivities”. </p><p dir="ltr">Although the prime minister said the Electoral Commission’s reports would be reviewed by the government, she reminded the Commons of the result of the referendum, the turnout, and added “it is up this parliament, this government, to deliver on that mandate.” The question came after nearly 80 national politicians signed <a href="http://mollymep.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/NCA_Met_-VoteLeave-15.10.18.pdf">a letter to the Met</a> calling on them to investigate.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile the campaign group Unlock Democracy has launched a petition calling on the Met to launch a formal investigation into the campaigns. So far it had been <a href="https://secure.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/page/31910/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=blog">signed by nearly 9,000 people</a>. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">Police still not investigating Leave campaigns, citing ‘political sensitivities’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/brexit-is-showing-urban-middle-classes-real-britain">Brexit is showing the urban middle classes the real Britain</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Arron Banks Leave campaign police Brexit investigations DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay James Cusick Sat, 20 Oct 2018 14:08:49 +0000 James Cusick and Adam Ramsay 120188 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit is showing the urban middle classes the real Britain https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/brexit-is-showing-urban-middle-classes-real-britain <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>And they don’t like it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 14.02.51.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 14.02.51.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Five Met police officers restraining and pepper spraying a black man in London this month. Image, Twitter, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Back in July, I rang the Met. Britain’s elections watchdog had just <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/party-and-election-finance-to-keep/vote-leave-fined-and-referred-to-the-police-for-breaking-electoral-law">referred another major Leave campaign</a> to the cops, for suspected crimes committed during the knife-edge Brexit campaign. This was the second referral in three months (the first related to Arron Banks's controversial pro-Brexit outfit, Leave.EU). I assumed the Metropolitan Police had done nothing about either case. After all, if Britain’s police forces took the crimes of rich white people seriously, London wouldn’t be the <a href="https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/economics-and-finance/london-the-money-laundering-capital-of-the-world">world centre for money laundering</a>. But it’s always important to check your assumptions.</p><p dir="ltr">When the police finally got back to me, they confirmed my suspicions. They hadn’t opened an investigation into any of the cases referred to them by the Electoral Commission. I mentioned this in<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/laws-protecting-britains-democracy-from-big-money-are-broken"> a broader story</a> about regulators (noting “you can be fined more for touting football tickets than you can for subverting Britain's democratic process”). And then I popped a reminder in my diary for a fairly random date a few months thence, saying “check whether Met still haven’t opened investigation”.</p><p dir="ltr">Last week, we <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">published the result</a> of that diary entry. No, the Met still hadn’t opened an official investigation, citing “political sensitivities”. When I tweeted the piece, it was carried across the internet on a wave of<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/jan/17/fbpe-what-is-pro-eu-hashtag-spreading-across-social-media"> FBPE</a> fury. Some said they were angry, but not surprised. But the reaction from most seemed to be shock. Shock that politics might interfere with policing; astonishment that London’s police force might not be policing the laws of our democracy as vigorously as they do many other rules of our society.</p><p dir="ltr">And for me, that reaction is an example of something fascinating.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Welcome to reality</h2><p dir="ltr">If you speak to any black person in London, they will tell you their stories of living in a metropolis with an institutionally racist police force. If you look at money laundering in the UK – so common that the world’s leading mafia expert has called it “<a href="https://www.euronews.com/2017/04/03/the-uk-is-the-most-corrupt-country-in-the-world-anti-mafia-journalists-saviano">the most corrupt country on earth</a>” – or if you consider the failure to arrest any major player in the financial crisis of 2008, then it should be obvious how the British police internalise, reproduce and reinforce the larger power structures in the country.</p><p dir="ltr">Read, for example, the detailed coverage of the death of Rashan Charles as reported by my colleagues<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/clare-sambrook-rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/rashan-charles-explainer"> Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi and Clare Sambrook</a>. It should come as no surprise that the institution at whose hands this young man died has been somewhat lax in investigating powerful, well-funded, predominantly white and right-wing groups led by people like Arron Banks. </p><p dir="ltr">Why would we imagine that a law enforcement system which is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/01/young-black-people-jailed-moj-report-david-lammy">nine times more likely</a> to jail young black men than young white men would want to pour resources into investigating the leaders of campaigns that smeared the internet with <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/martin-shaw/truly-project-hate-third-scandal-of-official-vote-leave-campaign-headed-by-">racist messages</a>?</p><p dir="ltr">But here’s the thing. Many people in the country haven’t had the misfortune of examining our national institutions up close in recent years. If you’re urban, white and doing all right, the Met aren’t hassling your son for being black and in possession of a pair of shoes. What’s more, you aren’t brutalised every week by the reality of universal credit. And – normally – neither you nor your near relatives spent your late teens in the deserts of Iraq realising you’d been sent off to kill and die for a lie.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Safeties off</h2><p dir="ltr">For much of this urban middle-class demographic, Brexit has revealed what many – including many who voted for it – already knew. The institutions of the British state are broken. As our investigations (along with those of many others) have shown, the Electoral Commission is <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex">practically powerless</a>, the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">Charity Commission</a> is is hugely under-resourced, the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/sunny-hundal/investigation-finally-launched-into-dark-arts-of-using-facebook-and-other-data-for-p">Information Commission</a> can’t keep up and our parliamentary watchdog is in need of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/mps-demand-full-investigation-of-hard-brexit-backing-tory-party-within-par">serious veterinary attention</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">More and more, Remain voters are <a href="https://twitter.com/Andrew_Adonis/status/1036196466279309312">chastising the BBC</a>, until recently the sacred temple of the British bourgeoisie. More and more are starting to understand that the civil service has been hollowed out by years of outsourcing, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/caroline-molloy/milburn-nhs-and-britains-revolving-door">revolving doors</a> and austerity, and is struggling to deliver something <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/22/civil-service-unable-to-cope-with-brexit-bob-kerslake">as vast as Brexit</a>. Tens of thousands of people in Britain have thought about Northern Ireland for the first time since Good Friday 1998, and realised why it matters.</p><p dir="ltr">For many of my friends on the left, watching this process can be frustrating. Passionate Remainers describing the crimes of the Brexit campaign as “the biggest scandal in British history” should probably be taught about the Tasmanian genocide or the plunder of India or the castration and rape of the Mau Mau. Regular claims that Brexit is the biggest crisis we face should be met with calm explanations of the implications of climate science and soil erosion and the Yemen famine. But these people should also be treated gently.</p><p dir="ltr">Ever since Cromwell, the success of the British ruling class has been that it has managed to placate and buy off much of the bourgeoisie with the plunder of empire. With violence externally, they were able to produce calm internally. For the last few decades, they have swapped this loot for lending as they allowed middle class lifestyles to continue on credit. But in the decade after the financial crisis, this relationship has started to strain. And it increasingly looks like Brexit is encouraging large chunks of middle class Anglo-Britain to look once more at the whole arrangement and realise that their country isn’t as rosy as they thought.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rod-charles/death-rashan-charles-CCTV">What is the truth about the death of Rashan Charles?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/laws-protecting-britains-democracy-from-big-money-are-broken">The laws protecting Britain&#039;s democracy from big money are broken</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit">Police still not investigating Leave campaigns, citing ‘political sensitivities’</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK Democracy and government Equality police Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 16 Oct 2018 13:17:40 +0000 Adam Ramsay 120122 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Police still not investigating Leave campaigns, citing ‘political sensitivities’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Exclusive: Months after Scotland Yard received ‘substantial’ evidence of potential criminality by pro-Leave groups, nothing has happened. Is the police probe destined for the political long-grass?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-29522714.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-29522714.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Picture: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Metropolitan Police has stalled the launch of any criminal investigation into three pro-Brexit campaigns – citing “political sensitivities”, openDemocracy can reveal today. Despite being handed their first dossier of evidence of potential crimes committed by pro-Leave groups over five months ago, the police force has made no progress nor logged a formal case into the activities of either Vote Leave, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, or Leave.EU, the pro-Brexit campaign bankrolled by Arron Banks.</p><p dir="ltr">In May and July this year, the UK Electoral Commission reported that multiple breaches of electoral law, false declarations and covert campaign over-spending had taken place by pro-Leave groups during the 2016 EU referendum.</p><p dir="ltr">Substantial fines were levied, and the <a href="http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/244900/Report-of-an-investigation-in-respect-of-Vote-Leave-Limited-Mr-Darren-Grimes-BeLeave-and-Veterans-for-Britain.pdf">Electoral Commission’s reports and all related evidence</a> were shared with Scotland Yard and the National Crime Agency. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) was then expected to investigate whether key individuals, including Leave.EU’s campaign chief, Liz Bilney; Vote Leave’s board official, David Halsall; and the founder of BeLeave, Darren Grimes, had committed related criminal offences.</p><p dir="ltr">Following inquiries by openDemocracy, the Met revealed it has yet to start any formal investigation, and has remained effectively stalled for months in “assessing evidence”. Pushed on why there has been no progress, or no formal case logged, a Scotland Yard spokesman admitted there were issues and “political sensitivities” that had to be taken into account. The Yard spokesman later added that the political issues related to “any allegation or referral relating to an election, and much else besides.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Scandal’ and ‘police state’</h2><p dir="ltr">The Met’s acknowledgement of “political sensitivities” as a factor in its investigation of a potential crime has raised concern in senior legal ranks.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">If the MPS are delaying an investigation into a likely crime because of political interference then ‘scandal’ does not begin to cover it</p><p dir="ltr">Jolyon Maugham QC, the barrister who leads the anti-Brexit Good Law Project, told openDemocracy that it was “profoundly troubling” that the Met was delaying or even not opening its investigation into the Electoral Commission’s evidence. </p><p dir="ltr">“If the MPS are delaying an investigation into a likely crime because of political interference then ‘scandal’ does not begin to cover it. Were that true, we would be living in a police state where criminality was overlooked – if that criminality was expedient to the government,” Maugham said.</p><p dir="ltr">Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said that breaking law during “one of the most critical moments in the UK’s history” made it of “urgent national interest that the police investigate what happened, how it happened and who was responsible.” </p><p dir="ltr">Watson added: “It is disappointing that no progress appears to have been made into these investigations months after they were supposed to start.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Vote Leave: ‘Serious breaches of the law'</h2><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission published its findings into the funding and spending of Vote Leave, the pro-Brexit group fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, in July. At the same time, the Metropolitan Police Service was sent a folio of evidence described as “<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/party-and-election-finance-to-keep/vote-leave-fined-and-referred-to-the-police-for-breaking-electoral-law">clear and substantial</a>” by Bob Posner, the commission’s legal counsel. He said the organisation had found “serious breaches of the laws put in place by parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums”. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The commission found “significant evidence” of illegally unreported co-ordination between Vote Leave and BeLeave, a campaign group run by fashion student Darren Grimes; it identified an overspend of almost £500,000 on the legal limit of £7 million; it claimed Vote Leave’s spending returns were inaccurate and totalled £236,000. Vote Leave was fined £61,000, Grimes £20,000, and Veterans for Britain, another pro-Brexit group, £250.</p><p dir="ltr">Key evidence sent to the Met included spending of £675,000 by BeLeave with the digital data company Aggregate IQ. The Electoral Commission found that this spending should have been declared by Vote Leave.</p><p dir="ltr">Posner said that Vote Leave had “resisted the Commission’s investigation from the start”, refused to co-operate, and refused requests for interviews. The Commission said it was satisfied that Vote Leave’s board official David Halsall “knew or ought reasonably to have known” that spending limits would be exceeded.</p><p dir="ltr">The Vote Leave campaign was co-founded by Michael Gove’s former adviser, Dominic Cummings. Its campaign committee included the former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, the former Brexit minister and ERG strategist, Steve Baker, the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, the former International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, and the Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave’s board, which is legally responsible for the campaign, included the leading Brexiteers Gisela Stuart, Lord Forsyth and Bernard Jenkin. Vote Leave rejected the findings of the Electoral Commission’s report</p><h2 dir="ltr">Arron Banks and Leave.EU: overspend ‘could have been much higher’</h2><p dir="ltr">In May, the Electoral Commission <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/243009/Report-on-Investigation-Leave.EU.pdf">fined Arron Banks’s Leave.EU</a> campaign group £70,000 and referred its campaign chief, Liz Bilney, to Scotland Yard. As with the Vote Leave report, the Commission said Leave.EU breached multiple areas of electoral law, over-spent the legal campaign limits and delivered incomplete and inaccurate accounts to the Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">The Commission said the group spent at least £77,380 more than it declared, and so more than 10% above its spending limit, but that the overspend could have been much higher. The regulator complained at the time that it is only allowed to issue a maximum fine of £20,000 per offence, saying that it "<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/party-and-election-finance-to-keep/vote-leave-fined-and-referred-to-the-police-for-breaking-electoral-law">considers this inadequate</a> for serious offences of electoral or referendum law".</p><p dir="ltr">The founder of Leave.EU, Arron Banks, rejected the report saying the Commission had engaged in a “politically motivated attack on Brexit.” Banks called the commission a “Blairite swamp creation packed full of remoaners.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">Call for ‘urgent and thorough’ investigation</h2><p dir="ltr">In the wake of the Electoral Commission reports, in August a group of 70 cross-party MPs, peers and MEPs, wrote to Cressida Dick, the Met commissioner, and to the Director General of the National Crime Agency, Lynne Owens. The letter stated that the Electoral Commission had limited powers of investigation and sanctions, and had no powers to prosecute. It urged the Met and the NCA to “investigate these matters thoroughly and with urgency.”</p><p dir="ltr">Within two weeks the Met’s commander of Specialist Crime, Stuart Cundy, and the NCA’s Director of Intelligence, Steve Smart, had replied to the MPs. Cundy said that the commission’s evidence was “being assessed by the MPS in order to make an informed decision as to whether a criminal investigation is required.”</p><p dir="ltr">Smart told the MPs that the NCA was “working alongside the MPS” and was also in close contact with “other government bodies on these issues.”</p><h2 dir="ltr">“No one should be surprised”</h2><p dir="ltr">Two months on, the Met’s position on its investigations into the three Brexit organisations remains unchanged and appears to be going nowhere.</p><p dir="ltr">A senior Home Office source, close to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, told openDemocracy: “No one should really be surprised that the Met have said there are political issues involved here. Of course there are. The Electoral Commission has done a thorough job. Fines have been made for the mistakes made. But we move on. We will soon know the shape of Brexit and maybe there are other issues that deserve our national attention more.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/brexit-is-showing-urban-middle-classes-real-britain">Brexit is showing the urban middle classes the real Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex">How the Electoral Commission turned blind eye to DUP&#039;s shady Brexit cash</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Arron Banks investigations Brexit police Law enforcement DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay James Cusick Thu, 11 Oct 2018 09:18:25 +0000 James Cusick and Adam Ramsay 120048 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Our governments share responsibility for the Cambridge Analytica crisis… and here’s how they should fix it https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/emma-briant/our-governments-share-responsibility-for-cambridge-analytica-crisis-and-her <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Government must regulate before privatised military propaganda firms interfere with any more elections</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cambridge Analytica/SCL's Alexander Nix. Image, Sam Barnes. CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A series of whistleblowers, journalistic investigations and public inquiries this year have reinforced concerns academics like me have had for some time about the rapid development of highly manipulative communication technologies. As our online activities are increasingly monitored and monetized, and we are being made more vulnerable to powerful actors abusing data for propaganda targeting. </p><p dir="ltr">This is enabled by digital platforms and influence industry applications that consumers trust, and which obscure their central purpose as part of their business model. Following questions of manipulation during Brexit and Trump campaigns inquiries interrogated the respective roles of: the campaigns themselves; foreign actors such as Russia; digital media platforms; influence industry companies and their business models and methodologies. Now US Senator <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/385137394/MRW-Social-Media-Regulation-Proposals-Developed">Mark Warner</a> and the <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcumeds/363/36302.htm">Fake News Inquiry</a> in the UK have come up with some helpful solutions for the problem of ‘fake news’ and digital campaign practices that may undermine democracy… how well do these address the problem at hand? Well, these proposals largely focus on: Information Operations (IO) and coordinated responses to Russia; privacy and transparency measures largely focused on encouraging better behavior from digital platforms like Facebook; and providing public media education. </p><p dir="ltr">The extent to which platforms like Facebook are complicit has been central to media debates, to the neglect of other aspects of the problem. Scholarly proposals rightly emphasize a need to address the monopoly of these platforms. Some (Baron et al 2017; Freedman, 2018; Tambini, 2017, for example) say forcing data portability, whereby users are able to take their data to competitors, might reduce the monopoly power enjoyed by Facebook. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Privacy measures like GDPR and other measures aimed at platforms would certainly be helpful. However, a central question has been neglected by media and reports and yet is all the more urgent as we plan for upcoming elections in the UK and US – this concerns the influence industry and how government contracting helped create Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL. If UK and US responses are likely to include more propaganda or ‘information operations’ (IO), to counter Russia, it is unfortunate that both reports fail to address the fact the company central to the scandal emerged out of this kind of contracting work for US and UK governments and NATO. My <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/written/84032.html">submission to the Fake News Inquiry</a> from my academic research helped expose this link and indicated problems which seem to be largely unaddressed by recent proposals. </p><p dir="ltr">Policymakers must consider whether oversight and intelligence mechanisms were adequate as they failed to identify or prevent a developing problem. We must write to them demanding they make these necessary changes to ensure there can be no recurring issues with another contractor. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Addressing Facebook’s Monopoly Power</h2><p dir="ltr">Many of those who best anticipated how powerfully ‘big data’ would transform ‘influence’, were those who saw it as an opportunity to be exploited for profit. The opaque and monopolistic business models of digital platforms have recently been scrutinized, highlighting the implications of data harvesting and misuse as well as consent and privacy issues. Solving this is vital to <a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/07/facing-facebook-data-portability-and-interoperability-are-anti-monopoly-medicine">enabling data portability</a>, something unlikely to be successfully achieved if left to the goodwill of profit-orientated companies<a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0267323118790156?journalCode=ejca&amp;"> like Facebook</a>. Yet if we enable consumers to ‘be in control of’ their data and take it to competitors, we need to protect them too, to ensure we are not making them vulnerable to other companies like Cambridge Analytica, who may be keen to obtain and exploit their data in further unethical ways. And digital ‘whack-a-mole’ banning of particular techniques, or dropping of companies as they are exposed in the media would leave us falling short of responding to complex multi-layered adaptive manipulation and or preventing problems as a fast-moving industry develops. We must address a problem not just of social media companies, but of an influence industry with deeply concerning norms. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Unaddressed problems in the influence industry</h2><p dir="ltr">These companies grew not just from political campaigning and commercial advertising, but some emerged through our own governments’ information warfare. There has long been a revolving door between military and intelligence and private influence industries. PR companies, and wider cultural industries have frequently been involved in wartime propaganda which raises problems itself. Particularly as defense and intelligence methodologies increase in sophistication, we must take more seriously the risk of knowledge migrating the other way, into commercial and electoral campaigning.</p><p dir="ltr">Specific training and/or knowledge formally or informally acquired in a military or intelligence context could include: disinformation and deception techniques; methods used to demoralize an enemy; methods of harnessing psychological weaknesses or violent tendencies within a population or group; methods for influencing extremists, or increasing or decreasing inter- and intra-group tensions; techniques and specialist knowledge about surveillance and hacking; all of which many would recognize would be inappropriate knowledge to risk having among teams handling election campaigns if we wish to prioritize the protection of democracy. </p><p dir="ltr">The inquiries and journalistic investigations have raised concerns about relationships between a defense contractor, SCL, and Cambridge Analytica, who ran political campaigns; concerns included possible data, financial and staffing overlaps with some staff on defense projects working on political campaigns, and questions of whether defense-derived methodologies or possible hacking may have been used in political campaigns. It cannot be left to individuals’ personal integrity, it raises too great a level of risk. And it can be hard for people to speak out, particularly in the light of silencing and monitoring strategies of governments within national security.</p><p dir="ltr">It is vital governments not shy away from considering how companies seek to adapt services developed for defense beyond that domain, for example by adapting a business model or company structure to obscure what they do in lucrative political campaigns. SCL were a government contractor who developed their methodology through their own research facility, the ‘Behavioural Dynamics Institute’ (BDI), including through collaboration with US government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) (<a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/">Briant, 2018</a>; <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/written/81874.html">Wylie, 2018a</a>). All SCL Group companies could draw on the methodologies developed. If these may have been able to inform tactics deployed in democratic elections this is very serious. </p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/oral/81592.pdf">her Fake News Inquiry testimony</a> Brittany Kaiser, former Development Manager for Cambridge Analytica revealed that: </p><p dir="ltr">“I found documents from Nigel Oakes, the co-founder of the SCL Group, who was in charge of our defence division, stating that the target audience analysis methodology, TAA, used to be export controlled by the British government. That would mean that the methodology was considered a weapon — weapons grade communications tactics — which means that we had to tell the British government if that was going to be deployed in another country outside the United Kingdom. I understand that designation was removed in 2015.” The potential for defense-derived methods and knowledge to be commercially sold in other industries raises further risks to national security, as techniques could migrate abroad. Concern was raised by whistleblowers over Cambridge Analytica’s pitches to Lukoil, a Russian FSB-connected oil company, while SCL Group were delivering counter-Russian propaganda training for NATO, that methods for both might be based on a similar methodological core and could be utilized by Russia. My own evidence indicates around the same time, Alexander Nix from CA contacted Julian Assange at Wikileaks about amplifying the release of damaging emails; the Russian government has been accused of the hacking of these, which it denies.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Oversight of defense</h2><p dir="ltr">CA and many SCL Group companies may have gone bankrupt now, but SCL Insight appears to remain and new companies are growing from their ashes (Auspex International, Emerdata and Datapropria for example – Datapropria, 2018; Murdock, 2018; Siegelman, 2018b). These companies are part of a wider industry we mustn’t lose sight of. </p><p dir="ltr">Proposals from politicians and media demand information warfare responses to Russia, but do not fully consider how to address the problems SCL highlighted in how this is overseen by government, or how intelligence and oversight might be strengthened to prevent future recurrence. It is important to ensure potential vulnerabilities that might have contributed to the crisis are addressed. Nigel Oakes, the CEO of defense contractor SCL Group <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/">said to me in interview</a>, “the defense people can't be seen to be getting involved in politics, and the State Department, they get very upset-” and stated that they imposed “strong lines” between the companies as a result. If the State Department had expressed concern, one might wonder if this could be due to the troublingly anti-democratic and potentially destabilizing roles CA played in international elections in Nigeria, Kenya and beyond. Oakes’ comments imply that the State Department may have been concerned that there was something to be ‘upset’ about in the conduct of, or relationships between, the companies. Oakes, the defense contractor, <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/news/fake-news-briant-evidence-17-19/">in interview with me</a>, stressed his importance to the methods underpinning what CA did in politics, saying that if Alexander Nix was “the Steve Jobs, I’m the Steve Wozniak. I’m sort of the guy who wants to get the engineering right and he’s the guy who wants to sell the flashy box. And he’s very good at it. And I admire him enormously for doing it. But I’m the guy who say, yeh, but without this you couldn’t do any of that!”. It is vital that US and UK governments, including research entities like DARPA who worked with BDI, build into private contracts more control over tools and weapons they help to create for information warfare.</p><p dir="ltr">The public also to know that networks of companies cannot obscure unethical practices, flows of data, financial interests or possible conflicts of interest with foreign powers – all concerns raised in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. On the question of related companies the UK Fake News Inquiry’s recent interim <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcumeds/363/36302.htm">report states</a>:</p><p dir="ltr"> “We do not have the&nbsp;remit or the capacity to investigate these claims ourselves, but&nbsp;we urge the Government to ensure that the National Crime&nbsp;Agency thoroughly investigates these allegations.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">This sadly is beyond the current scope of the UK National Crime Agency and a UK Defence Select Committee Inquiry is needed to review this and why UK export control restrictions were removed. </p><h2 dir="ltr">What to do</h2><p dir="ltr">We need government to take action to address it. Investigations in both countries should ensure oversight is fully reviewed, particularly in relation to oversight of groups of companies, protection against commercial exposure of IO practices and migration into elections. Transparency in government contracting, stronger oversight and reporting mechanisms, and reforms in the industry such as licensing that could be revoked or fines set at a deterrent level that can prevent future scandals are essential in both countries. Transparency in the US could be improved by a reporting system for private companies equivalent to Companies House in the UK. There could also be penalties for defense contractors in each country found obscuring overlaps and company relationships. Strict regulation of the influence industry, or perhaps professional licensing that can be revoked on evidence of abuse, would not only protect citizens, it would give substance to a truthful narrative that would undermine Russian and other hostile narratives directed at democracies. And it would commercially protect the industry itself, creating a resulting ‘soft power’ economic benefit for industry and Western governments.</p><p dir="ltr">While Damian Collins MP of the UK Fake News Inquiry and Sen. Mark Warner are rightly cautious about government interventions regulating the media, improved oversight in the national security realm, electoral protections and licensing in the influence industry provide little threat to free speech, indeed unethical conduct in the influence industry could be argued to threaten free speech and democratic debate. Policymakers should ensure a) competition is enabled via data portability and b) influence industries are properly regulated, with enforced codes of conduct, professional licensing we see in other professions, and robust monitoring of companies and individuals beyond their contracts to ensure defense technologies are restricted and elections are protected. Preconditions for resolving this are of course greater transparency in the industry and may include dedicated monitoring by expert-led independent regulators and industry licensing bodies. This would actually strengthen an industry in which the absence of regulation has become unsustainable, threatening democracy and national security in this case. Current unethical practices can also be exploited by those wishing to spread narratives about the ‘corrupt West’ and weakness of democracy. The measures proposed above will together ensure that data portability produces competition and therefore innovation, and concurrently ensure that media consumers are not vulnerable to the actions of unethical companies. Democratic controls would strengthen public trust in democracy, help to protect and secure our elections and have a long term ‘soft power’ benefit for both countries. </p><p dir="ltr"><em>Bibliography</em></p><p dir="ltr">Baron, S; Crootof, R &amp; Gonzalez, A. (2017) <a href="https://law.yale.edu/system/files/area/center/isp/documents/fighting_fake_news_-_workshop_report.pdf">Fighting Fake News Workshop Report</a>, <a href="https://law.yale.edu/system/files/area/center/isp/documents/fighting_fake_news_-_workshop_report.pdf">Yale University</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">Datapropria (2018) ‘Data and Behavioral Science Experts’ Datapropria.com </p><p dir="ltr">Kaiser, Brittany (2018) <a href="blank">Oral Evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee: Fake News, HC363</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Freedman, D (2018) <a href="blank">'Populism and media policy failure'</a> in European Journal of Communication: journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0267323118790156?journalCode=ejca&amp;</p><p dir="ltr">Murdock, Jason (2018) What is Emerdata? As Cambridge Analytica Shuts, Directors Surface in New Firm <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/what-emerdata-scl-group-executives-flee-new-firm-and-its-registered-office-909334">in Newsweek</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Siegelman, W (2018b) '<a href="https://medium.com/@wsiegelman/theyre-back-ex-cambridge-analytica-employees-launch-auspex-international-to-focus-on-social-and-aa51a0ab6fca">They’re Back: Ex-Cambridge Analytica employees launch Auspex International to focus on social and political campaigns in the Middle East and Africa'</a> in <a href="https://medium.com/@wsiegelman/theyre-back-ex-cambridge-analytica-employees-launch-auspex-international-to-focus-on-social-and-aa51a0ab6fca">Medium</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Tambini, D (2017) <a href="blank">Media Policy Brief 20 Fake News: Public Policy Responses</a>, LSE Media Policy Project: &nbsp;&nbsp;eprints.lse.ac.uk/73015/1/LSE%20MPP%20Policy%20Brief%2020%20-%20Fake%20news_final.pdf</p><p dir="ltr">Wylie, C (2018a) ‘<a href="blank">A response to Misstatements in relation to Cambridge Analytica’</a>, <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/fake-news/written/81874.html">Supplementary written evidence published by Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nathan-oxle/cambridge-analytica-hacked-our-social-lives-to-win-elections-but-more-is-at-stake-than-v">Cambridge Analytica hacked our social lives to win elections - but more is at stake than votes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/marcus-gilroy-ware/cambridge-analytica-outrage-is-real-story">Cambridge Analytica: the outrage is the real story</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? uk DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Emma L Briant Tue, 09 Oct 2018 07:16:24 +0000 Emma L Briant 119983 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How the Electoral Commission turned blind eye to DUP's shady Brexit cash https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/electoral-commission-turned-blind-eye-to-dups-shady-brex <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Emails reveal elections regulator was ‘concerned’ by revelations about mysterious £435,000 donation – but closed the case quickly without investigation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/gregorycampbell_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/gregorycampbell_0.jpeg" alt="Gregory Campbell" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>DUP Treasurer Gregory Campbell MP. Image, BBC, fair use.</span></span></span><br /></span><p><span>Senior Electoral Commission staff privately expressed ‘concerns’ that the Democratic Unionist Party had broken UK election law, openDemocracy can reveal. At issue was a controverisal £435,000 donation to the party’s 2016 Brexit campaign. But just weeks later the watchdog closed the case without investigating the DUP’s Brexit cash.<br /><br /></span><span>The Electoral Commission was watching closely when BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight team broadcast </span><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299"><span>Brexit, Dark Money and the DUP</span></a><span> in late June. In internal emails, staff at the regulator said that the film raised ‘concerns’ about the source of the DUP’s donation, which came from a shadowy group called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC). <br /><br />Staff at the watchdog also said that the programme provided "new information" which suggested the DUP had been 'working together' with other Leave campaigns in contravention of electoral law.<br /><br /></span><span>But barely a month later, the Electoral Commission announced that it did “not have grounds” to launch a full investigation into the DUP’s Brexit spending. The emails, released to openDemocracy under freedom of information laws, suggest that little attempt was made to examine the allegations aired in the BBC film, with senior staff stressing the need to swiftly “draw a line” under the issue. <br /><br /></span><span>Barrister Jolyon Maugham of the Good Law Project said that the Electoral Commission’s decision not to investigate the DUP was “</span><span>utterly inexplicable from a genuinely independent regulator”.</span><span> Maugham and </span><span>Ben Bradshaw MP have annouced that they will seek juduicial review proceedings against the regulator for its 'whitewashed' investigation into the £435,000 DUP donation and its failure to investigate the CRC. </span><span>openDemocracy first </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts"><span>broke the story</span></a><span> of the DUP’s Brexit cash back in February 2017.</span></p><h2><span>“Sufficient for us to have concerns”</span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>Political donations in Northern Ireland were secret until last year but parties still had to follow the same rules as the rest of the UK. Spotlight alleged that DUP treasurer Gregory Campbell did not perform due diligence before accepting £435,000 from the CRC. In the programme Campbell told a journalist from the investigative website </span><a href="http://source-material.org"><span>SourceMaterial</span></a><span>: “How would I be or anybody in our party be expected to know who the individuals are that are involved in the organisation?”<br /><br /></span><span>The day after the film aired, the Electoral Commission’s head of regulation Louise Edwards wrote to colleagues that Campbell’s comments were “sufficient for us to have concerns” about whether permissibility checks had been carried out on the source of the donation – the biggest in Northern Irish political history. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/ZlrSOp623dKulqA2yCRMaxtuOI3MI9BCNcX0BMX96DWEfeCy_7qpl6ZgA-FCYgyUoqtNg0uVeUePQjmVXP85kP5UZTX5Ovi2PiBhTVSevbk0Lm4zKiaRNjRHrWOFbwGLZwFhi2sM" alt="" width="602" height="456" /></span></p><p><span>A separate, handwritten note said “Gregory Campbell did not know who donor was or why it mattered”. The note is labelled “Ann Watt”. She is the head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland and was interviewed by Spotlight.<br /><br /></span><span>That same day, in an exchange with Electoral Commission chief executive Claire Bassett, Watt said of the Spotlight film that “the most compelling point they made was on potential joint working. There is new information there.” </span></p><h2><span>A common plan?</span><span><span> </span></span><span><span> </span></span><span> </span><span><span> </span></span><span> </span><span><span> </span></span><span> </span><span><span> </span></span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>The Electoral Commission has previously found Brexit campaigners guilty of breaking the law having earlier decided against launching full investigations. Last year, the regulator reopened an investigation into Darren Grimes after openDemocracy <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">revealed</a> how Vote Leave used loopholes to give the fashion student more than £600,000.<br /><br /></span>In July,&nbsp;<span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/17/darren-grimes-the-student-pro-brexit-activist-fined-22k-vote-leave">Grimes</a></span><span> and Vote Leave were fined £61,000 between them after the Electoral Commission found that the two campaigns had been working together, which is prohibited under UK elections law unless it's declared. The commission said they had a clear “common plan” for spending £675,000 with an obscure Canadian data analytics firm called Aggregate IQ.<br /><br /></span><span>The DUP spent money with many of the same companies as Vote Leave, including tens of thousands with </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-"><span>Aggregate IQ</span></a><span> and almost £100,000 on merchandise from the same </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit"><span>small company in Cambridgeshire</span></a><span> that supplied the Vote Leave campaign.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><br /></span><span>The Spotlight film found further evidence of potential joint working. The DUP’s contact with Aggregate IQ was Lee Reynolds, director of Vote Leave in Northern Ireland. (Reynolds, who is also a DUP councillor, said he did not direct DUP activities with Aggregate IQ.) An </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/24/eu-referendum-spending-official-campaigns-investigation-opens-electoral-commission"><span>advert in the Metro</span></a><span> newspaper taken out in the DUP’s name – at a cost of £282,000 – was actually </span><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299"><span>booked by</span></a><span> the Constitutional Research Council’s chair, Richard Cook.<br /><br /></span><span>The Electoral Commission has extensive powers of investigation. But the emails suggest that the watchdog chose not to use them to examine the allegations made against the DUP and Cook.<br /><br /></span><span>The watchdog's head of regulation did write to Gregory Campbell the day after the Spotlight broadcast, saying that the DUP treasurer was required to ensure that all donations are permissible. “Anyone knowingly or recklessly making a false declaration… commits an offence,” Louise Edwards told the East Londonderry MP.<br /><br /></span><span>Campbell replied on 3 July expressing his “disappointment” that the regulator had written to him after a “biased BBC output”. Campbell said his interview had been used “out of context” and “in an attempt to convey an incorrect impression” that he was not familiar with electoral law. The DUP treasurer made no mention of whether or how he had checked the permissibility of the £435,000 donation.<br /><br /></span><span>A week later, Edwards wrote to Electoral Commission colleagues saying that she intended to reply to Campbell acknowledging his letter and reminding “him that if he does ever have questions about permissibility or donations more widely, he can always ask us”. There appears to have been no further communication between the regulator and the DUP treasurer over the source of the Brexit cash.</span></p><h2><span>“Draw a line” </span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>The emails also show that the regulator placed the onus on the BBC to provide it with information. On 27 June, while discussing a media query from the Irish News</span><span>,</span><span> an Electoral Commission staffer said that the regulator should tell the press that “we have asked the BBC to provide us with copies of any evidence it holds... This would put the pressure (rightly) on the BBC to provide us, the regulator, with the evidence.”<br /><br /></span><span>Senior Electoral Commission staff seemed particularly concerned about the optics of the Spotlight film. The morning after it aired the watchdog’s chief executive Claire Bassett asked her colleague at the Northern Irish Electoral Commission Ann Watt whether the programme was “getting much traction” and complained that the film “did seem to conflate a number of things and in doing so risked adding 2 and 2 together and getting 12!”</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/NOWNLKMrxMw08z_gO87Nk3sYHaLm5-SCk_eLF7E8pIb4c44NbLDE50_Yy0KENIHbC0aicfPQ0GFgfV6QIcjVSoEplZgOTSXEQebB1g5pJqciiNnPs4xi1HcdnkiKhX1eXWvIcCHh" alt="" width="602" height="624" /></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>openDemocracy has also learned that a senior BBC Northern Ireland journalist did provide the Electoral Commission with a lengthy letter outlining their main claims and how the regulator could independently verify the allegations made in the programme. But it appears that the regulator decided not to investigate even before it received the BBC’s letter.<br /><br /></span><span>On 16 July, the day before the BBC’s letter was sent, the Electoral Commission’s head of regulation Louise Edwards wrote to Ann Watt saying that suggesting the Electoral Commission put out a “short statement… to draw a line” under the issue. Edwards suggested that the statement about the DUP could be combined with an announcement that it would not be investigating claims about the Remain campaign that former cabinet minister and prominent Brexiter Priti Patel lodged last December.<br /><br /></span><span>“It plays quite nicely with a similar statement we want to make on the complaint Priti Patel made about various remain campaigners, so there’s merit I think in doing the two together,” Edwards wrote.<br /><br /></span><span>On 26 July, less than ten days after receiving an extensive letter from the BBC outlining the allegations raised by the Spotlight film, an unnamed Electoral Commission staffer wrote: “I have now reviewed this and agree we should not investigate.” In response, Edwards expressed satisfaction that the issue was “dealt with in a timely way”.<br /><br /></span><span>On 2 August, the Electoral Commission announced publicly that it “did not have grounds” to open an investigation into the DUP. On the same day, the regulator also said it would not be examining Priti Patel’s complaints further.<br /><br /></span><span>Following the announcement, Gregory Campbell attacked the BBC and Spotlight presenter Jim Fitzpatrick. “Why was the programme fronted by a self‐confessed 'EU Remain' campaigner? The programme included an interview with me which was not authorised by me or provided by me for the programme, was there payment made for the interview?” the DUP treasurer said in a press statement. </span></p><h2><span>Utterly inexplicable </span></h2><p dir="ltr"><span>Jolyon Maugham, barrister and director of the Good Law Project, has said that if the Electoral Commission does not open full investigations into the DUP and the Constitutional Research Council </span><span>(CRC) </span><span>he will bring a judicial review against the regulator. Last month, the</span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/14/electoral-commission-misinterpreted-law-vote-leave-high-court"><span> High Court ruled</span></a><span> that the Electoral Commission had misunderstood the law surrounding donations to Vote Leave, following a case taken by the Good Law Project.<br /><br /></span><span>"This was the biggest known political donation in Northern Irish history. The DUP's own treasurer was caught on tape saying he didn't know who the donor was and didn't think it was his job to check. This is the clea</span><span>r</span><span>est contravention imaginable of electoral law. Yet the Electoral Commission didn't even bother to investigate. This is utterly inexplicable from a genuinely independent regulator," Maugham told openDemocracy.<br /><br /></span><span>SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said: “It will come to many as a shock that given the evidence so far that the regulator has made this inexplicable decision on the DUP donation, and if it has now come to the point that a leading Queens Consul should seek a judicial review on this decision, then our notion of access to free and fair elections are to my mind ill served by the present regulations.”<br /><br /></span><span>An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “In line with our Enforcement Policy, the Commission carried out an assessment into claims made by BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight that the DUP and Vote Leave failed to declare joint working at the EU referendum.<br /><br /></span><span>“We concluded that we did not have grounds to open an investigation into the allegations that were made due to insufficient evidence. The decision was made after a thorough review of the programme, information that was provided to us and other sources.<br /><br /></span><span>“The Commission continues to be prohibited by legislation from disclosing any information concerning donations to Northern Ireland recipients made prior to 1 July 2017 (section 71 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000). We continue to urge the UK Government to bring forward legislation that will enable us to publish information on donations from January 2014.”<br /><br /></span><span>The CRC remains one of the most opaque groups in British politics. The only person officially connected with the CRC is </span><span>Richard </span><span>Cook, a former Scottish Tory vice chair. The only other group to receive money from the CRC is the staunchly pro-Brexit European Research Group. In December 2016, the </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/01/brexit-minister-linked-to-group-that-used-loophole-to-channel-435000-to-dup"><span>CRC gave former Brexit minister Steve Baker £6,500</span></a><span> to “fund hospitality for ERG members and their staff” at a pre-Christmas event.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/electoral-commission-contradict-dup-on-brexit-donor-transparency">Electoral Commission contradicts DUP on Brexit donor transparency</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/electoral-commission-demand-right-to-publish-northern-irish-brexit-campaign">Electoral Commission demand end to ban on publishing Northern Irish Brexit campaign donor details</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The &#039;dark money&#039; that paid for Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Northern Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Northern Ireland UK Democracy and government Brexit investigations Democratic Unionist Party DUP Dark Money Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Fri, 05 Oct 2018 06:58:49 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 119893 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The High Court case which could reveal the DUP's secret Brexit donors https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/high-court-case-which-could-reveal-dups-secret-brexit-donors <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Good Law Project is taking the Electoral Commission to court to find out who was behind a huge donation that paid for Leave campaigning.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/_90045432_metro_split_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/_90045432_metro_split_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The DUP Brexit advert in the Metro</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Someone gave the Democratic Union Party £435,000 before the Brexit referendum in 2016. But we don’t know who. Now a campaigning barrister is taking the Electoral Commission to court to force out the truth. </p><p dir="ltr">Last week in the High Court, senior barrister Jolyon Maugham won a case against the Electoral Commission and Vote Leave – one of the two official campaigns in the referendum. The court ruled that a donation from Vote Leave to Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes should have been counted as expenditure for Vote Leave and not Grimes’ independent campaign. This is because the money was paid directly to AggregateIQ, a political data marketing company that was supposed to be working for Grimes’ campaign. The extra expenditure means that Vote Leave broke the laws relating to how much the campaigns were allowed to spend.</p><p dir="ltr">Now Maugham’s non-profit organisation, the Good Law Project, is arguing that the same logic must also apply to the Constitutional Research Council, the body that gave the £435,000 donation to the Democratic Unionist Party, as revealed here <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">on openDemocracy</a>. More than half the money went on a DUP advert in the Metro newspaper, which ran in England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland – and earlier this year, an investigation by BBC Northern Ireland revealed that Richard Cook, the chairman of the CRC, had personally placed that advert. </p><p dir="ltr">Maugham will argue that because the CRC placed the advert directly themselves, the DUP ‘donation’ ought, in fact, to be counted as expenditure by the CRC, in the same way that Vote Leave's gift to Grimes has now been counted as expenditure. And while the DUP has been allowed to hide behind Northern Irish donor secrecy laws, Richard Cook lives in Glasgow. </p><p dir="ltr">If the Good Law Project wins its case, the CRC will be legally required to publish all donations it has received of £7,500 or above. The Good Law Project <a href="https://goodlawproject.org/expose-the-dup/">is crowdfunding to bring this case</a>, and has so far raised £17,000 out of the £30,000 needed.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, Jolyon Maugham said:</p><p dir="ltr">“It seems pretty obvious to me that if you pass money to someone else and you dictate what they do with that money, you’re as good as incurring the expenditure yourself and that’s what the court has now held.</p><p dir="ltr">“There’s an awful lot of material that’s yet to emerge into the public domain but as I look at that material, it seems pretty obvious to me that both the CRC and the DUP have probably broken the law.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts">The &#039;dark money&#039; that paid for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/high-court-found-that-vote-leave-broke-law-in-different-way">The High Court found that Vote Leave broke the law in a new way</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">Meet the Scottish Tory behind the £435,000 DUP Brexit donation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Brexit investigations DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 18 Sep 2018 14:49:22 +0000 Adam Ramsay 119707 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Major Scottish Tory funders fined over illegal donation https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/major-scottish-tory-donors-fined-over-illegal-donation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">The Irvine Unionist Club donation funded 10% of Ruth Davidson’s campaign spending in 2016</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Ruth_Davidson_parliamentary_oath_2016.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Ruth_Davidson_parliamentary_oath_2016.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ruth Davidson. Image, Scottish Parliament</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A major donor to the Scottish Conservatives ahead of their 2016 Scottish Parliament election has been fined on the back of an openDemocracy investigation. </p><p dir="ltr">As part of our investigation into the dark money driving the Scottish Conservatives, we <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dark-money-driving-scottish-tory-surge">wrote last year</a>: “In April 2016, a group called the Irvine Unionist Club gave the North Ayrshire Conservative and Unionist Association £100,000. In order for a group like the Irvine Unionist Club – an Unincorporated Association – to give a donation of more than £25,000, it has to be legally registered<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/political-parties-campaigning-and-donations/donations-and-loans-to-other-individuals-and-organisations/registers-unincorporated-associations"> with the Electoral Commission</a>, and declare any donations to it of more than £7,500. The Irvine Unionist Club doesn’t seem to appear on the<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/excel_doc/0020/223643/Register-of-Unincorporated-Associations-Public-2017.xlsx"> list of registered donors</a>, and Googling it reveals almost nothing, meaning that we don’t know where their money came from.”</p><p dir="ltr">The treasurer of the North Ayrshire Conservatives, the former Scottish rugby international Bryan Gossman, told us that the cash had in actual fact been transferred to “the central party in Edinburgh”. However, the Scottish Conservative Party, led by Ruth Davidson (pictured), is not registered as an accounting unit with the Electoral Commission, meaning the donation was hidden in the local party's accounts. Ruth Davidson's party spent <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Spending?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=conservative&amp;sort=DateIncurred&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;open=filter&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;includeOutsideSection75=true&amp;evt=scottishparliament&amp;ev=2508&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=ExpenseCategoryName&amp;optCols=FullAddress&amp;optCols=AmountInEngland&amp;optCols=AmountInScotland&amp;optCols=AmountInWales&amp;optCols=AmountInNorthernIreland&amp;optCols=DateOfClaimForPayment&amp;optCols=DatePaid">£980,000</a> during the campaign, meaning the donation made up more than 10% of their funding. In the previous Scottish Parliament election, the party only spent £275,000 and, with the extra money in 2016 came their best ever election result.</p><p dir="ltr">We reported the Irvine Unionist Club to the Electoral Commission, and heard nothing for more than a year. However, the latest<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/monthly-update-concluded-investigations4"> monthly update from the Electoral Commission</a> says that they have fined the Irvine Unionist Club £400 for “Failure to provide notification of gifts to a political party exceeding £25,000, and notification of gifts received by due date”.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to <a href="https://theferret.scot/tories-dark-money-donor-fined-electoral-commission/">the Ferret</a>, the SNP MP Pete Wishart said:</p><p dir="ltr">"The dark money net is now closing in on the Tories as their dodgy and cavalier financial dealings become further exposed and punished. This is probably just the first of many examples where the Tories will be found short of what is permissible by the Electoral Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">"Last week I wrote to the Electoral Commission for an update on my complaint about the transfer of property to the Scottish Unionist Association Trust in flagrance of the Commission’s rules on exempt trusts under section 162 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. I hope that the Electoral Commission now make speedy progress with this investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">"Some £318,000 of unaccountable money has been swirling about in Conservative coffers supporting a number of candidates and MPs. The Conservatives need to start to come clean on where this money comes from and how it was acquired."</p><p dir="ltr">Also speaking to the Ferret, the Scottish Conservatives said that trustees had accepted the fine, and stressed that the party was not under investigation.</p><p dir="ltr">"The Electoral Commission has investigated the donation, and has concluded that the Trust was not exempt in terms of the 2000 Political Parties Act’s reporting requirements.”</p><p dir="ltr">“The Trustees have accepted that they were at fault in failing to register the donation, and have paid the £400 fine. The Conservative Party was not investigated nor subject to any fine."</p><p dir="ltr">Commenting to the Ferret on the fines, an Electoral Commission spokesperson said: "Unincorporated associations, such as the Irvine Unionist Club, must register with the Electoral Commission when they make political contributions of more than £25,000 in a calendar year and must report any relevant gifts that they have received.</p><p dir="ltr">"This ensures there is transparency about funding of political campaigning. Irvine Unionist Club failed to comply with these rules and the Electoral Commission has fined them £400."</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dark-money-driving-scottish-tory-surge">The dark money driving the Scottish Tory surge</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Scotland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Scotland UK Democracy and government investigations Conservative Party DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 18 Sep 2018 14:06:12 +0000 Adam Ramsay 119704 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Second’ bank account: MPs demand probe into Rees-Mogg’s Brexit group https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick/second-bank-account-mps-demand-probe-into-rees-mogg-s-brexit-group <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Cross-party demands for an urgent investigation into the financial affairs of the European Research Group follow openDemocracy’s investigation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/PA-35723513_460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/PA-35723513_460.jpg" alt="Jacob Rees-Mogg in front of a sign saying "Leave Means Leave"" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jacob Rees-Mogg: we're still waiting for answers. Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Senior MPs are calling for a deep investigation of the ‘second’ bank account and undisclosed funding held by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s group of hard-line anti-EU Conservatives.</p><p>They want full public scrutiny of the financial operations and shrouded membership list of the European Research Group (ERG). Their demands follow the latest <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/parliament-watchdog-probes-rees-mogg-s-hard">disclosure</a> in openDemocracy’s ongoing investigation into the ERG’s affairs, which revealed an undisclosed second bank account with unknown “sources of funding”.</p><h2>“Transparent as mud” </h2><p>Details of the accounts held by the ERG were branded a political “scandal” by the Liberal Democrats’ Brexit spokesman, Tom Brake. He called the activities of the ERG as “transparent as mud” and said the group’s reluctance to accept full public scrutiny of its accounts showed it had “something dubious to hide”.</p><p>Brake added: ”This scandal involving the finances of a hard-right Brexit group is, however, all too reminiscent of the dodgy and unscrupulous deals by the Leave campaign [during the EU referendum].”</p><p>John Trickett, Labour’s shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) must now reopen its investigation into the ERG and “provide the public with much-needed answers to a long list of questions: how do the ERG use their public funding, and what is the source of their private funding and the identity of their members?”</p><h2>A “circus”</h2><p dir="ltr">Trickett said the continued lack of clarity over the ERG’s affairs and operations “carries the risk that this circus starts to make a mockery of our entire political system”.</p><p>The ERG, chaired by Rees-Mogg, but still effectively run by the former Brexit minister, Steve Baker, is thought to number close to 80 Tory MPs. It has been regularly dubbed a party within a party, recently dominating <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/12/pro-brexit-tory-mps-openly-discuss-how-to-get-rid-of-theresa-may-michael-gove">headlines</a> over its manoeuvres to oust Theresa May as prime minister unless she abandons her ‘Chequers’ plan for the UK's future relationship with the EU.</p><p>IPSA, which regulates MPs’ expenses and business costs, raised concerns with the ERG earlier this year about its bank accounts. The watchdog asked for clarification from the ERG about “other sources of funding”, seeking assurances that public money was not being misused.</p><p>Before publishing our article this week, openDemocracy sent Rees-Mogg’s office all details of a disclosed email exchange between IPSA and the ERG outlining concerns about a second bank account and other funding. The group made no reply and has continued to remain silent.</p><p>Since 2011 the ERG has received over £300,000 in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">public funds</a>. The money is paid to MPs for supposedly neutral, non-party-political pooled research. Current and former cabinet members who have channelled <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">funds</a> to the ERG include Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt, Chris Grayling, David Gauke and David Davis.</p><p>One ERG bank account is designated for the funds it receives from IPSA. A second account, not known to IPSA in previous reviews of the group’s activities, held other sources of funding. The discovery of a second account prompted IPSA to seek clarification from the ERG about how the “separation” of private and public funding was maintained and whether appropriate rules had been followed.</p><h2>Taxpayers footing the bill</h2><p>The People’s Vote campaign, which are seeking to ensure the government’s Brexit deal is put to a full national vote, said the new revelations about the ERG’s accounts and funding “raised serious questions that had to be answered”. A campaign spokesperson said: “This is a group that receives taxpayers’ money. So the parliamentary authorities must now rightly investigate whether the taxpayer is footing the bill for a thinly veiled Brextremist lobbying organisation.”</p><p dir="ltr">Brake also said that the lack of transparency of the ERG, a group that could be critical to the outcome of an approved deal with the EU, was “yet another reason why the people should have the final say on Brexit”.</p><h2>A deplorable silence</h2><p>Ben Bradshaw, a former Labour cabinet member and a long-term critic of the ‘dark money’ used to fund the campaigns of anti-EU groups in the 2016 referendum and beyond, told openDemocracy that the ERG’s silence over democratic accountability was “deplorable”.</p><p>He added: “If, as the ERG now claim, they are interested in policy and not leadership issues, then they should publish their full membership list and open their account to full public scrutiny. Anything less will show they have something to hide. So far all they have revealed is disdain for the electorate, who they supposedly regard as simply an administrative inconvenience.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/parliament-watchdog-probes-rees-mogg-s-hard">Parliament watchdog probes Rees-Mogg’s hard Brexit lobby group over “other sources of funding”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">UK government minister hides leading role with hard Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/tory-ministers-taxpayer-cash-hard-Brexit-erg">MPs demand ‘urgent investigation’ into Cabinet ministers&#039; support for hard-Brexit lobby group</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government accountability European Research Group Brexit investigations Conservative Party DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. James Cusick Sat, 15 Sep 2018 16:11:57 +0000 James Cusick 119671 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The High Court found that Vote Leave broke the law in a new way https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/high-court-found-that-vote-leave-broke-law-in-different-way <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>England &amp; Wales's High Court has ruled that Vote Leave broke campaign spending limits in addition to the way that the Electoral Commission previously said they did.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Royal_Court2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Royal_Court2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>By sjiong - https://www.flickr.com/photos/sjiong/109817932/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6380215</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The High Court has ruled today that Vote Leave did break their spending limit and so the law when they gave £625,000 to the young Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes ahead of the European Referendum. However, people have got confused about how this relates to the Electoral Commission’s decision to fine both Vote Leave and Grimes back in July. So I've read the whole ruling to work out what's going on.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s important to understand that there are three separate but related issues in play here.</p><p dir="ltr">The first is the fact, in itself, that Vote Leave paid £625,000 to Darren Grimes for his BeLeave campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">The second is the fact that Vote Leave didn’t actually pay this money to Grimes himself. Rather, all but £1,000 of it was paid on his behalf to AggregateIQ, the online comms firm which ran much of the Brexit campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">The third is the question of whether or not the money was paid to Grimes as part of a ‘joint plan’ with Vote Leave.</p><p dir="ltr">The short explanation is that the court ruled today on the first two questions. The Electoral Commission ruled back in July on the third.</p><p dir="ltr">The case itself followed the publication by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">openDemocracy</a> and the Ferret of a cache of internal Electoral Commission emails (after Carole Cadwalladr, Buzzfeed and Private Eye had written about the affair). This correspondence – obtained under Freedom of Information legislation by my colleague Jenna Corderoy – showed that the regulator was concerned about Vote Leave’s donations to Grimes but had decided not to launch an investigation. This prompted Jolyon Maugham QC of the Good Law Project to launch a crowdfunder to support a legal challenge to the Electoral Commission in the High Court to review the decision not to probe the Grimes case further.</p><p dir="ltr">Once the case was launched, two things happened.</p><p dir="ltr">First, the Electoral Commission decided to reopen the issue, and to look, specifically, at my third question above: whether Leave and Grimes had a joint plan. The regulator maintained that the donation from Vote Leave to Grimes shouldn’t be counted as Vote Leave expenditure, unless Grimes and Vote Leave spent the money as part of a ‘joint plan’. If they did, then under election law, that the money should count towards Vote Leave’s expenditure. And that would mean it broke its £7 million spending limit. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />In July this year, the Electoral Commission <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/vote-leave-fined-and-referred-to-the-police-for-breaking-electoral-law">ruled on this matter</a>, concluding that there was “significant evidence of joint working” between the lead campaigner, Vote Leave, and BeLeave. The Commission also found that Grimes had broken a related rule (he’d registered his campaign as himself, rather than under the name “BeLeave”, while the donation went to “BeLeave”). They fined both Vote Leave and Darren Grimes, and referred both to the Met Police.</p><p dir="ltr">Second, before that ruling from the Commission, judges heard the first round of the Good Law Project’s argument. They resolved that they wouldn’t look at the question of whether there had been a ‘joint plan’ – which the Electoral Commission was already investigating. This, they said, was a matter of fact, while it was their job as the High Court to rule when there are disagreements about the law. They would, however, rule on whether the donation itself should have been counted as expenditure by Vote Leave, irrespective of whether there was a ‘joint plan’ between Grimes and Vote Leave. </p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave has worked hard to conflate these two seperate question in the last few hours. But ultimately, the court ruling today is a separate matter from the fine and police referral in July.</p><p dir="ltr">The ruling today consists of 25 pages of legalistic pondering on what it means for an expense to be incurred, by whom it is conferred, and similar questions. And ultimately, it concludes that the donation should have been counted as expenditure by Vote Leave, because it was a donation for a particular thing, rather than simply a donation for Grimes to use however he pleased. Key to this ruling was the fact that the money was paid by Vote Leave to AggregateIQ, rather than simply paid to the BeLeave account with no strings attached: a fact first revealed <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">here on openDemocracy</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Both the Leave and the Remain campaigns have some legitimate grievance here. If Leave was, as it claims, told by the Electoral Commission that their donation to Grimes was allowed, then they have now been told by the High Court that it was not. However, the breach of the rules for which they were fined earlier this year was a slightly different question: it is absolutely clear in the published <a href="http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/194621/Working-together-for-EU-referendum-campaigners.pdf">Electoral Commission guidelines</a> that spending on “joint campaigns” will all be counted against the lead campaign’s expenditure. </p><p dir="ltr">Likewise, if the Commission’s incorrect interpretation of the law effectively allowed the official Leave Campaign to spend more than the official Remain campaign, then Remainers have significant grounds for grievance.</p><p dir="ltr">At the centre of all of this sit the Electoral Commission, who do seem to have blundered. There have been some loud calls for a serious shake up there from both sides of this quarrel today, and I have some sympathy for that. I was on a ferry to Belfast when they rang me back last year, and explained to me why they had decided that the donation to Grimes was fine. I spent the rest of the journey baffled: it seemed to me then, and has done ever since, that this had to either be bad law, or a bad interpretation of it. </p><p dir="ltr">However, I think it’s important to think a little harder about what’s going on here. As I <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/platform-parties-vs-plutocrat-pr-welcome-to-future-of-uk-politics">wrote last week</a>, the Conservatives, with collapsing membership, are relying ever-more on a small pool of large donors, many of whom have offshore connections which merit investigation. Likewise, without party activists, they are likely to rely ever-more on companies like AggregateIQ to get their messages to voters. The Commission is seriously underfunded and struggles to keep on top of the huge workload (this was all unfolding at the same time as the Channel 4 revelations about Conservative election spending in 2015). The oligarchs who wish to control our politics would love nothing more than a de-fanged and degraded Electoral Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">The response to this error shouldn’t be to denigrate a regulator our democracy relies upon. Instead, this should be a prompt to give the Commission the cash and power it needs to properly police our politics.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-evidence-that-leave-groups-co-ordinated-to-get-round-re">&#039;Crimes&#039; committed by Brexit campaigners? One extraordinary coincidence offers a new clue</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/peter-geoghegan/vote-leave-trying-to-bury-bad-news">Vote Leave is using media to bury bad news</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Brexit investigations DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Fri, 14 Sep 2018 16:20:22 +0000 Adam Ramsay 119664 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Parliament watchdog probes Rees-Mogg’s hard Brexit lobby group over “other sources of funding” https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/parliament-watchdog-probes-rees-mogg-s-hard <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>EXCLUSIVE: Emails released by UK parliamentary standards watchdog reveal a ‘second’ bank account held by the powerful ERG group of Tory MPs, as they pressure May to abandon Chequers.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Official_portrait_of_Mr_Jacob_Rees-Mogg_crop_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/640px-Official_portrait_of_Mr_Jacob_Rees-Mogg_crop_1.jpg" alt="Jacob Rees-Mogg, official portrait" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jacob Rees-Mogg. Image: UK Parliament,&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/">Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)</a> </span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The UK parliamentary standards watchdog is probing the financial affairs of a group of Tory ultra-Brexiteers, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Brexit Minister Steve Baker, openDemocracy can reveal today.</p><p dir="ltr">The European Research Group (ERG) has dominated news headlines this week, with reports of plots to oust prime minister Theresa May if she does not abandon her Chequers plan, and putting forward <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/12/eurosceptic-group-paper-on-irish-border-offers-no-breakthrough-ideas-erg">heavily criticised proposals for the Irish border</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">In June, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) wrote to the ERG seeking clarification about how it uses taxpayer money – and other unknown “sources of funding”. &nbsp;IPSA was reacting to concerns about public money being misused to support the ERG’s high-profile political campaign for a hard-line, uncompromised Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">The ERG has received ‘research funds’ (<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">paid out of MPs’ expense claims</a>, and therefore ultimately funded by the taxpayer) from the offices of key current and former cabinet ministers such as Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt, Chris Grayling, David Gauke and David Davis. The group uses one bank account to lodge the funds received from IPSA for parliamentary ‘research’ services.</p><p dir="ltr">However in June this year the ERG confirmed to IPSA that it holds a second bank account for paying for drinks, MPs’ breakfasts and other expenses. The existence of the second account was not referred to in IPSA’s initial review of the group’s research output, which was conducted last year. At the time, IPSA concluded that “the ERG was found to have noticeably less formal governance structure and internal controls… which could present a risk to compliance.”</p><p dir="ltr">IPSA has subsequently requested assurances from the hard-Brexit group about the way different income streams are managed through the two bank accounts. IPSA told the ERG it required “further conversation with you about how this separation [of accounts and funds] is maintained.” Groups are not allowed to use parliamentary funding for “party-political purposes.”</p><p dir="ltr">The ERG responded by saying that the second bank account “pays for occasional functions, MPs’ breakfasts, drinks, etc. That’s it really.” </p><p dir="ltr">IPSA met the ERG in early July to discuss the matter. openDemocracy have requested further information from IPSA about this meeting and the ERG’s second bank account. </p><p dir="ltr">The ERG is highly secretive about its membership list, even though its activities are taxpayer-funded. The group is thought to include 80 Tory MPs, and it is currently under no obligation to publish its accounts. </p><p dir="ltr">The result is that the British public is entitled to very little information about the financial and political activities of a key group of Tory MPs which colleagues say operates as a “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">party-within-a-party</a>”, and which stands accused of <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-customs-union-rules-brexit-brexiteers-tory-conservatives-a8332101.html">holding Theresa May hostage</a> over the final deal with Brussels.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Political neutrality a “bad joke”, says Tory MP</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 15.55.10.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 15.55.10.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="436" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Email from IPSA to the ERG, asking them to provide materials on which they will be assessed, obtained by openDemocracy under the Freedom of Information Act.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">According to emails obtained by openDemocracy, one ERG bank account lodges the funds received from MPs who claim taxpayers cash for so-called “pooled research.” Since 2011 this has amounted to at least £300,000 – but, as the ERG refuses to publish its full membership list of MPs, the true figure could be far higher. </p><p dir="ltr">However in emails exchanged between the ERG and IPSA, the parliamentary watchdog states that the ERG has “other sources of funding” which “presumably can be used for campaigning/party political activity”. </p><p dir="ltr">IPSA told the ERG that they had a responsibility to “seek assurances” that funds were being properly used. </p><p dir="ltr">In another email sent to IPSA in June this year, the ERG states that it does not, as a research group, “do political campaigning.” This assurance followed an openDemocracy investigation last year which revealed that taxpayer cash was being used to fund what many Tory and Labour MPs saw <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/mps-demand-full-investigation-of-hard-brexit-backing-tory-party-within-par">as partisan political activity.</a> &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">After openDemocracy’s reporting on this issue last year, IPSA said it “examined” the ERG’s research output and concluded it was largely “factual and informative” and not “party-political”. However, the extent of the review appears to have been limited to a basic request to the ERG to submit a selection of “briefing material”. &nbsp;<br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />The review had limited concerns over only one ERG document, which said that Labour’s decision to vote against the Withdrawal Bill in 2017 was “irresponsible, a breach of trust with their voters and a vote to create chaos.” IPSA told the ERG that it should “avoid using similar language in the future.”</p><p dir="ltr">One Tory MP familiar with the output of the ERG questioned whether the group’s output could be seen as not party-political: “IPSA must have been handed a nicely filleted folder of safe stuff if it reached the conclusion that all was fair and balanced. ERG activities of the last week alone show the idea of party political neutrality to be a bad joke,” the MP told openDemocracy.</p><h2 dir="ltr">“Alternative solutions” to Chequers</h2><p dir="ltr">The lobbying company headed by Lynton Crosby, CTF Partners, were reported by The Sunday Times to be working with the ERG to derail Theresa May’s proposed deal with the EU worked out at Chequers in July. The CTF-ERG tie-up is thought to be targeting May with the aim of replacing her with Boris Johnson before all the strands of any Brexit deal are formally secured. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The ERG were also reported to have hired Hans Maessen, the former president of the Dutch customs association, to help them compile alternative solutions to the Chequers plan. </p><p dir="ltr">It is not clear if CTF Partners are charging the ERG their usual retainer fee, regarded as being among the highest in the UK lobbying industry. Maessen has also refused to comment on the veracity of the ERG link, or if he is working with Rees-Mogg on a pro bono basis. </p><p dir="ltr">This week a private meeting of the ERG with more than 50 MPs attending reportedly discussed ways of ousting the prime minister. The gathering, in the Thatcher Room at Portcullis House, considered the timing of a possible confidence vote against the PM if she did not ditch the Chequers plan. </p><p dir="ltr">Under current parliamentary funding rules, MPs must not use IPSA funding for party political purposes. In another email sent to the ERG in September last year, IPSA make it clear that “party political briefings are not eligible for IPSA funding.”</p><p dir="ltr">One Tory MP who has previously been outspoken about the influence of the ERG told openDemocracy that the immediate unity of the Conservative party was now in the hands of “a few historically blind and economically innumerate ideologues.” They added: “Both IPSA and the Electoral Commission should do all they can to make public everything they know on this group of MPs."</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘No comment’ on other sources of Brexit cash</h2><p dir="ltr">The Electoral Commission (EC) is legally entitled to be informed of donations above £7,500 to the ERG. One donation of £10,000 was lodged with the commission in March last year. The name ‘Paul Dyer’ is listed by the regulator. No further details are given. </p><p dir="ltr">Additionally, in 2016 £6,500 was given to the ERG by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-scottish-tory-behind-425000-dup-brexit-donation">the obscure Glasgow-based Constitutional Research Council (CRC)</a>, the organisation responsible for channelling the controversial £435,000 pro-Brexit donation to Northern Ireland’s DUP ahead of the 2016 EU referendum. Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, then chair of the ERG, said the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/01/brexit-minister-linked-to-group-that-used-loophole-to-channel-435000-to-dup">CRC cash</a> was used to fund a Christmas 2016 hospitality party for ERG members. </p><p dir="ltr">The CRC’s chair, Richard Cook, has refused to comment on where the money given to the ERG originated, just as he has refused to divulge where the controversial DUP donation came from. He is not required by law to do either.</p><p dir="ltr">As no accounts are published by the ERG, there is no way of verifying if other donations of under £7,500 have been received and lodged in the non-IPSA bank account. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Theresa May’s gamble</h2><p dir="ltr">The ERG’s power as a group of unified Brexiters who want a clean, no-ties break with Brussels will be crucial to the outcome of the UK parliament’s vote on whatever Brexit deal Britain makes with the European Union.</p><p dir="ltr">Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister credited with transforming the ERG from quiet irrelevance into a forceful, secretive unit that Downing Street cannot ignore, told a private meeting in Westminster this week that 80 Tory MPs would vote against the prime minister’s Chequers’ plan. </p><p dir="ltr">Whether Baker is overplaying the influence of MPs under his control is unclear, but it remains a risk Number 10 has not yet been prepared to take. It is understood that the current Brexit minister, Dominic Raab, conducts a daily telephone update call to either Baker or Rees-Mogg on the state of negotiations with Brussels. </p><p dir="ltr">Full details of the information contained in the IPSA emails seen by openDemocracy were put to Rees-Mogg’s ERG office. The group was asked to comment on its accounts, on any financial relationship with Sir Lynton Crosby and Hans Maessen, and on the research material it sent to IPSA. </p><p dir="ltr">At the time of publication no reply had been received. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">Revealed: The Tory MPs using taxpayers’ cash to fund a secretive hard-Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">Six of Theresa May’s cabinet are paid up “members” of secret group demanding a total break from the European Union </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">UK government minister hides leading role with hard Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/tory-ministers-taxpayer-cash-hard-Brexit-erg">MPs demand ‘urgent investigation’ into Cabinet ministers&#039; support for hard-Brexit lobby group</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government investigations European Research Group Brexit Conservative Party DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Jenna Corderoy James Cusick Thu, 13 Sep 2018 14:44:00 +0000 James Cusick, Jenna Corderoy and Peter Geoghegan 119641 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Opposition MPs call on PM to investigate former minister over hidden links to Tory ultra-Brexiteers https://www.opendemocracy.net/james-cusick/opposition-mps-call-on-pm-to-investigate-former-minister-over-hidden-links-to-tory-ultr <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>After openDemocracy revealed how former Brexit minister Steve Baker continued to work with the secretive European Research Group despite being in government, demands for Downing Street to investigate.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/Steve Baker Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 13.47.41_460.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564976/Steve Baker Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 13.47.41_460.jpg" alt="Steve Baker MP" title="" width="460" height="257" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Steve Baker: from the ERG to Brexit department. Image: BBC, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Senior opposition MPs have called on the prime minister to launch “an immediate investigation” into a former Brexit minister for potential breaches of the ministerial code. They say Steve Baker should be investigated for using civil servants to organise secretive meetings with the European Research Group and for keeping a lead role with the influential group of hardline anti-EU Conservative MPs after becoming a minister. </p><p dir="ltr">An <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/ex-brexit-minister-steve-baker-remained-in-">investigation</a> by openDemocracy revealed how Baker continued to meet with and influence the ERG after he was appointed as a minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union in 2017. The ERG, a group of ultra-eurosceptic Tories said to include as many as 80 MPs, has consistently pressured Theresa May to adopt a hard Brexit.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Now leading Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs responsible for Brexit policy have called on Number 10 to investigate Baker and the “dirty and secretive” games that are steering the UK towards a ‘no deal’ Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">Cabinet Office</a> investigation previously examined Baker’s regular attendance at ERG meetings throughout his time as a minister. The probe, prompted by an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">openDemocracy</a> investigation, accepted Baker’s explanation that he was merely attending the gatherings in his personal capacity as a constituency MP.</p><p dir="ltr">However, emails obtained by openDemocracy show Baker’s DExEU officials organising his attendance at an ERG meeting just weeks after he became a minister. He also offered the group private briefings on critical government policy. None of the meetings were officially listed, as transparency rules require.</p><p dir="ltr">Conservative party sources with knowledge of Baker’s relationship with the ERG said he had remained “their lightly-detached chief executive” while serving as a minister. The <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/672633/2018-01-08_MINISTERIAL_CODE_JANUARY_2018__FINAL___3_.pdf">ministerial code</a> prohibits MPs from “being associated with non-public organisations whose objectives may in any degree conflict with government policy”.</p><h2>Misuse of ministerial position</h2><p dir="ltr">John Trickett, Labour’s shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, told openDemocracy: “The revelation that Baker used civil servants to contact the ERG undermines his claim to have only interacted with this secretive group in a personal capacity.”</p><p dir="ltr">Trickett said Baker was using his ministerial position to “push an extreme free-trade agenda that is at odds with his own government’s policy and the great majority of the British public.”</p><p dir="ltr">Baker took over as chair of the ERG in 2016 and is credited with moulding it into the powerful group it is today. Though funded by taxpayers’ cash, the ERG refuses to make its <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">membership</a> list public. Current and former <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">cabinet</a> ministers are understood to be paid-up members.</p><p dir="ltr">Appointed a minister by Theresa May after the 2017 general election, Baker resigned on 9 July this year, the same day as his boss at DExEU, David Davis, also left. Baker said he was unable to back the compromises of the plan the prime minister had brokered at Chequers two days earlier. He later accused May of being involved in a “cloak and dagger” <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/07/14/theresa-mays-secret-cloak-dagger-plot-foil-brexit-revealed-minister/">plot</a> to foil Brexit and said Downing Street, not DExEU, had control over negotiations with Brussels.</p><p dir="ltr">Baker is on record stating that the EU needs to be “wholly <a href="blank">torn down</a>” and that it remains “an obstacle to free trade and peace”.</p><h2>Worse than Game of Thrones</h2><p dir="ltr">Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson, said the “dirty and secretive” games being played by the Tories in their “embittered civil war” made Game of Thrones look tame in comparison. However Brake said it was “no laughing matter” because the UK was “being pushed over a ‘no-deal’ Brexit cliff edge”.</p><p dir="ltr">Commenting on Baker’s links with the ERG, Brake told openDemocracy: “It would appear a now former minister broke the ministerial code while in office. The prime minister cannot ignore this. There should be an immediate investigation.”</p><p dir="ltr">Brake said Baker’s connections to the ERG while holding a senior role in a government department critical to the UK’s future relationship with the European Union “revealed the extent to which Theresa May’s government have been driven by this ragtag group of MPs. These politicians cannot be trusted.”</p><p dir="ltr">May’s fate as prime minister is often described as being in the hands of the ERG, now chaired by Jacob Rees-Mogg. A hard-line Brexit <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/rees-mogg-tories-draw-up-their-own-blueprint-for-a-hard-brexit-r7b53s355">policy paper</a>, co-authored by Baker and Rees-Mogg, is to be published before the Conservative Party conference in early October. The blueprint is expected to be part of a wider assault on the Chequers deal, which will be painted as a sell-out keeping the UK shackled to Brussels’ rules.</p><p dir="ltr">The ERG’s votes in Parliament on any agreement with Brussels will be critical to the outcome and therefore to May’s immediate future.</p><p dir="ltr">Since his resignation, Baker has slotted back into a leadership role among his ERG colleagues. In a <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/brexit-steve-baker-theresa-may_uk_5b4f79dfe4b0de86f4891341?guccounter=1&amp;guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvLnVrLw&amp;guce_referrer_cs=CyOGpjZCEMf960Cm__JMlw">speech</a> to the House of Commons shortly before the summer break, Baker used barely coded language to threaten May, saying there were 40-plus Brexiteers – a reference to the ERG – who would vote with the SNP and Labour to kill off the Chequers plan.</p><p dir="ltr">The effective deputy prime minister, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/29/no-deal-brexit-is-only-alternative-to-chequers-plan-says-lidington">David Liddington</a>, said this week that if the Chequers compromise failed, the only option left was a ‘no deal’ Brexit.</p><h2>PM held hostage</h2><p dir="ltr">A former Labour cabinet minister, Ben Bradshaw, who is a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, told openDemocracy: “These new revelations about Steve Baker highlight how the government, and by extension the country, are effectively being held hostage by a Brextremist minority within the Conservative Party.”</p><p dir="ltr">Bradshaw added: “Everyone else has to follow the rules, but Steve Baker and his merry band of Brexiteers march to the beat of their own drum. It is outrageous that our country may end up being forced to endure a destructive Brexit because of the ideological obsessions of a relatively small number of back-bench MPs operating in secrecy.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/ex-brexit-minister-steve-baker-remained-in-">Ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker remained in charge of secretive Tory ultra faction </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">Six of Theresa May’s cabinet are paid up “members” of secret group demanding a total break from the European Union </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government European Research Group Brexit investigations Conservative Party DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. James Cusick Fri, 31 Aug 2018 11:55:10 +0000 James Cusick 119498 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Truly Project Hate: the third scandal of the official Vote Leave campaign headed by Boris Johnson https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/martin-shaw/truly-project-hate-third-scandal-of-official-vote-leave-campaign-headed-by- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Look at the Vote Leave Facebook adverts alongside their more public propaganda, and you see quite how much it promoted racist ideas.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Vote Leave Turkey immigration ad_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Vote Leave Turkey immigration ad_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vote Leave Facebook ad, fair use</span></span></span></p><p class="BodyA">Boris Johnson’s weaponisation of the burqa came on the heels of new revelations about the propaganda strategy of the Vote Leave campaign which he fronted in the 2016 referendum. I <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/martin-shaw/brexit-is-r-for-racism">argued here at the time</a> that Vote Leave’s official television advertisement, the most high-profile item of Leave propaganda, was a skillful racist amalgam. </p> <p class="BodyA">During the referendum, we knew that Vote Leave was sending a huge number of targeted social media messages. Its strategist Dominic Cummings now says there were 1.5 billion, with a large number directed at just 7 million voters in the final days of the campaign, but these were under the radar for pro-EU observers in 2016.&nbsp; </p><p class="BodyA">However, following the twin scandals around Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ, and Vote Leave’s breaches of election spending laws, Facebook supplied <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/culture-media-and-sport/Fake_news_evidence/Ads-supplied-by-Facebook-to-the-DCMS-Committee.pdf">Vote Leave’s advertisements</a> to Westminster’s Media, Culture and Sport committee. It is now possible to see that the TV ad was the centrepiece of a vast multimedia effort centred on a nuanced orchestration of racism to swing the Brexit vote. </p> <h2 class="BodyA"><strong>How racism in the Leave campaign has been misunderstood</strong></h2> <p class="BodyA">This third scandal is possibly the most serious of all for British democracy, yet to appreciate it we must revise our ideas on the role of racism in Brexit. During and after the referendum, pro-EU politicians and commentators largely identified racism with the UKIP-linked Leave.EU, which was responsible for what became an emblematic moment, the unveiling by Nigel Farage – just after the assassination of the Labour MP Jo Cox – of the notorious ‘Breaking Point’ poster which used a photograph of Syrian refugees to represent migration into Britain. Vote Leave distanced itself from the poster: the co-convenor of its campaign committee, Michael Gove (then as now a cabinet minister), <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36570759">said that he ‘<span>shuddered</span>’</a> when he saw it. </p> <p class="BodyA">Moreover, Leave.EU attacked Vote Leave for giving insufficient priority to immigration and critics have largely taken their attacks at face value, accepting the idea that Leave.EU was racist, Vote Leave not. When <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/brexit-hate-crime-racism-immigration-eu-referendum-result-what-it-means-eurospectic-areas-a7165056.html">a wave of physical and verbal aggression</a> erupted, political blame focused on the secondary campaign fronted by Farage and funded by Arron Banks. Indeed Tim Shipman recounts that Leave.EU advertisements were ‘deliberately sent to supporters of the British National Party and Britain First’, the racist group to which Thomas Mair, Cox’s murderer, was linked because he cried ‘Britain first’ as he killed her (<a href="https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008215170/all-out-war/">All Out War</a>, p.408). </p> <p class="BodyA">However the focus on Leave.EU, the extreme right and hate crimes misses the role of the campaign which was officially recognised by the Electoral Commission and led by Conservative ministers and Labour MPs: Vote Leave. In the biggest TV debate on 20 June 2016, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, accused Vote Leave leaders of <a href="https://www.indy100.com/article/sadiq-khan-called-out-the-leave-campaigns-project-hate-and-got-the-biggest-cheer-of-the-bbc-eu-debate--ZkM5b5Hc4W">‘Project Hate’</a>, a rare calling-out of their campaign at the time. We can now see how right he was.</p> <h2 class="BodyA"><strong>How Vote Leave’s TV and Facebook propaganda combined</strong></h2> <p>By then Vote Leave had shown its <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36367247">TV election</a><a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36367247"> broadcast</a> repeatedly on different channels over four weeks, starting on 23 May. Beginning with lurid graphics representing the immigration threat of Turkey and Balkan countries joining the EU and the £350 million the UK allegedly paid the EU each week, it climaxed with split screen film showing (staying within the EU) a surly foreign man elbowing a tearful elderly white woman out of the queue in an Accident and Emergency department, while (leaving the EU) the woman is contentedly treated without having to wait. This film was on YouTube as recently as the spring of this year, but appears to have been removed since the scandals of the Vote Leave campaign were exposed. The importance of this broadcast is that it was shown, as law required, on all terrestrial public channels and therefore accessible to almost all the electorate, including older voters, a major target audience many of whom did not use social media. </p><p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Vote Leave TV ad still_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Vote Leave TV ad still_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A still from Vote Leave's TV ad. Fair use.</span></span></span></p> <p class="BodyA">The new information published by the DMCS committee shows how Facebook propaganda complemented this broadcast. While Vote Leave’s hundreds of Facebook advertisements <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44966969">included a wide range of issues</a>, the largest cluster focused on immigration, Turkey and the linked £350 million claim, and widely re-used graphics and images from the broadcast in material posted to targeted subsets of users. Images of Johnson (the only featured politician) were used with apparently liberal, democratic slogans such as ‘I’m pro-immigration, but above all I’m pro controlled immigration. In the EU the system has spun out of control. Join Me, Vote Leave’, and ‘Immigration must be controlled by those who the public elected and not the EU! On the 23 June they will get their chance to take back control.’&nbsp; </p><p class="BodyA">However alongside these were lurid advertisements like: ‘5.23 MILLION MORE IMMIGRANTS ARE MOVING TO THE UK! GOOD NEWS???’ (the viewer was invited to press a ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ button, and presumably ‘no’ respondents were targeted with further advertisements reprising the theme in one of many variations now revealed) and ‘Reason No. 8’ to leave the EU, ‘‘To stop convicted criminals from countries like Latvia and Romania coming to the UK’ (the button was: ‘YES, I VOTE LEAVE’). </p> <p class="BodyA">In this differentiated propaganda, on the one hand immigration was presented as an example of ‘taking back control’ with the abstract theme of excessive numbers of migrants, and on the other as the threat of large numbers of new migrants arriving from undesirable places like Turkey and the equally distant, barely known Balkan states of Serbia, Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. Each of these countries featured separately in mutually reinforcing advertisements, which may well have been posted sequentially to susceptible Facebook users. </p> <h2 class="BodyA"><strong>‘Abstract stuff’ and emotive propaganda </strong></h2> <p class="BodyA">The combination of an emphasis on numbers with more emotive, targeted tropes is not new. In his <a href="https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/enoch-powell-what-rivers-blood-8945556">notorious 1968 speech</a>, Enoch Powell asserted: ‘numbers are of the essence: the significance and consequences of an alien element introduced into a country or population are profoundly different according to whether that element is 1 per cent or 10 per cent.’ Powell always claimed to be ignorant of the term ‘race’, and in remarks around the same time which seem prophetic of contemporary Europhobic concerns, even suggested around the same time that clusters of Italians or Germans in British cities would constitute the same sort of ‘alien’ presence as large numbers of blacks. </p> <p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Vote Leave Johnson immigration ad_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Vote Leave Johnson immigration ad_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Nevertheless, just as Vote Leave named Turks, Albanians and others, Powell made it very clear that he was talking about ‘Negroes’, evoking the fate of the sole ‘white (a woman old-age pensioner)’, living in a street taken over by these ‘aliens’: ‘She is becoming afraid to go out. Windows are broken. She finds excreta pushed through her letter-box. When she goes out to the shops, she is followed by children, charming, wide-grinning piccaninnies.’ </p> <p class="BodyA">The key here was that Powell needed to give the ‘abstract stuff’ about numbers, as the historian <a href="http://www.oupcanada.com/catalog/9780199240548.html">Randall Hansen calls it</a>, human form to make it the emotional stuff of effective propaganda. It is difficult not to see Vote Leave’s broadcast with its focus on the plight of a vulnerable older white woman as homage to Powell’s exposition, and curious that Johnson, having notoriously also <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2008/jan/23/london.race">prattled about ‘piccaninnies’ and ‘watermelon smiles’</a>, should now have referred to ‘letter-boxes’ in his attack on Muslim women. Whether or not they are consciously referencing Powell, they are following his playbook remarkably faithfully considering the changed circumstances.</p> <h2 class="BodyA"><strong>Strategic role of immigration in Vote Leave’s campaign</strong></h2> <p class="BodyA">More important than these historical parallels is the incontrovertible evidence that Vote Leave attached as much strategic importance to immigration politics as Leave.EU. Shipman demonstrates, using comprehensive interviews with leading participants, that the differences between the campaigns concerned strategy and timing rather than the principle of weaponising immigration. He shows that Cummings always understood that Leave could not win without making immigration a crucial plank, and that his aim was to establish Vote Leave’s respectable credentials by focusing on sovereignty and ‘taking back control’ before the official campaign, and then to introduce immigration in that final month as the killer argument which would concretise ‘control’ and widen Leave’s appeal. </p> <p class="BodyA"><a href="https://dominiccummings.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/on-the-referendum-21-branching-histories-of-the-2016-referendum-and-the-frogs-before-the-storm-2">Cummings himself writes</a>: ‘Would we have won without immigration? No’, and confirms that the key argument was: ‘Vote Leave to take back control of immigration policy. If we stay there will be more new countries like Turkey joining and you won’t get a vote. Cameron says he wants to “pave the road” from Turkey to here. That’s dangerous. If we leave we can have democratic control and a system like Australia’s. It’s safer to take back control.’ He adds, ‘It is true that we did not do much on immigration before the 10 week official campaign. That is because ... we did not need to. It was far more important to plant other seeds and recruit support that would have been put off if we had focused early on immigration. Immigration was a baseball bat that just needed picking up at the right time and in the right way.’ </p> <p class="BodyA">However this ‘stagist’ characterisation is only half the story. Vote Leave also had in effect a two-<em>level</em> campaign, in which often lurid propaganda, much of it undercover, ran alongside the campaign figureheads’ abstract arguments about sovereignty and global Britain in their televised speeches for respectable audiences, and too much media coverage took the latter as representative. Yet with Vote Leave’s mainstream credentials and more nuanced range of material, its emotive propaganda is likely to have had a wider influence on voters than Leave.EU’s. </p> <h2 class="BodyA"><strong>The allegation of racism </strong></h2> <p class="BodyA">As the debate on antisemitism has emphasised, racism does not necessarily involve expressing explicit hostility to specific groups or a desire to harm them. Often it is implicit in the imagery used and the ‘smell’ of a certain kind of propaganda, as Jewish groups sometimes put it. Moreover while some people <em>are </em>racists, in an existential sense, today’s politicians are more usually involved in exploiting (or condoning) policies, propaganda and images which create hostility towards groups in society for their electoral purposes. The <a href="http://natcen.ac.uk/our-research/research/racial-prejudice-in-britain-today/">British Social Attitudes</a> survey shows a stubborn persistence of racial prejudice in about a quarter of the population, a sizeable reservoir of support for any campaign which is tempted. The Tories, advised by Lynton Crosby, had already dabbled with dog-whistle politics in their ill-fated London Mayoral campaign earlier in 2016.</p> <p class="BodyA">Vote Leave’s leaders were doubtless not personally hostile to Turks or Albanians, let alone Europeans as a whole. Nor will they have wished to cause hate crimes, which in any case would have rebounded on their campaign (as they feared had happened when Jo Cox was murdered). Their promise that EU citizens’ rights would be unilaterally guaranteed might even have been honestly intended, although in that case one would have expected more protests when Theresa May unceremoniously ditched it (neither Johnson and other Leave cabinet ministers in her government, nor Vote Leave’s co-convenors, Gove and the Labour MP Gisela Stuart, stood up for their campaign’s commitment when the matter was voted on in Parliament).</p> <p class="BodyA">The decision to attack mostly hypothetical migrants rather than existing residents from EU states (except in material like the Romanian/Latvian criminals ad) showed what Vote Leave was trying to achieve. It fed the trope of excessive numbers without directly targeting people in UK society, which respectable Leave voters might have been uncomfortable with; it also minimised the danger of a powerful backlash from EU citizens and Remain. It was a neat way of conjuring an imaginary threat of a massive new wave of immigration which would play into fears which had been fanned over the years by the tabloids, Migration Watch, the Tory right and UKIP.</p> <p class="BodyA">However this was not just about numbers. The image of the tearful old woman, which could be picked up even with the sound off, was more powerful than any figures. The focus on Turkey and the Balkan countries played into racist stereotypes: the otherness of people from distant, poor (and in Turkey’s case) Muslim-majority countries hardly needed labouring. It implied hostility towards Turks and Albanians in the UK, who had already experienced racism. It also implied hostility towards more than three million EU citizens by creating a threat to their residence rights and exposing them to the ‘hostile environment’ which May had created for migrant.</p> <p class="BodyA">When Brexit led, predictably, to a large spike in racist abuse and violence against Europeans and ethnic minorities, the leaders of Vote Leave as well as Leave.EU must have had a pretty good idea of where it came from. Yet as they survey the mess Brexit is making of our country, it seems the lesson they are learning is: more of the same. Johnson’s doubling down showed that his offensive comments on burqas were no casual mistake, and the abuse faced by ordinary Muslim women was priced into the tactic. We must fear that there is more to come.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/martin-shaw/brexit-is-r-for-racism">BREXIT: the R is for Racism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK Democracy and government Brexit Cambridge Analytica DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Martin Shaw Thu, 30 Aug 2018 10:39:01 +0000 Martin Shaw 119484 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker remained in charge of secretive Tory ultra faction https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/ex-brexit-minister-steve-baker-remained-in- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Under the ministerial code, Baker was supposed to cut his ties with the European Research Group when he joined the government in 2017. But newly released emails show that as Brexit minister, he offered them private briefings on critical government policy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-07-01 at 19.02.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-07-01 at 19.02.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Steve Baker MP, fair use</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Control and influence over a hard-line Brexiteer group of Conservative MPs remained in the hands of Steve Baker throughout his time as a Brexit minister, according to new documents obtained by openDemocracy. Jacob Rees-Mogg was merely the public face of the secretive group.</p><p dir="ltr">Baker led the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">taxpayer-funded</a> European Research Group (ERG) of pro-Brexit MPs until being appointed a minister in 2017. But while in office he offered to address the ERG privately on government policy. These briefings were not recorded in transparency data from Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU).</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/672633/2018-01-08_MINISTERIAL_CODE_JANUARY_2018__FINAL___3_.pdf">Official rules</a> bar ministers from “being associated with non-public organisations whose objectives may in any degree conflict with government policy.” Although the ERG has often clashed with the government over Brexit, Baker continued to “act as though he was just the lightly-detached chief executive of the ERG”, according to a senior Conservative source with knowledge of the group’s activities. </p><p dir="ltr">Baker resigned his ministerial post last month at the same time as his boss at DExEU, David Davis, complaining he had been “blind-sided” by Theresa May’s ‘Chequers’ plan. </p><p dir="ltr">Since that resignation, Baker has re-emerged as a leading voice in the powerful ERG lobby, which some <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/16/theresa-may-narrowly-avoids-defeat-after-caving-in-to-rees-mogg">believe</a> controls the short-term future of May’s premiership. The ERG is set to unveil an alternative blueprint for a hard Brexit ahead of September’s Conservative party conference. The paper has been jointly written by Baker and Rees-Mogg.</p><p dir="ltr">In July 2017, just weeks after Baker became a minister, officials acting for him were in direct contact with the ERG. The correspondence included arrangements for Baker to give private briefings to the group about the so-called Great Repeal Bill.</p><p dir="ltr">One redacted email, sent from a DExEU mailbox, states that “Steve (Baker) would like to brief interested ERG members on the Repeal Bill, at a convenient time next week”. </p><p dir="ltr">The ERG does not publish lists of its members—thought to include more than 80 MPs—but another email notes that there is a “larger group” and “a smaller more senior one" within the ERG. Baker is invited to choose which group to address. A subsequent email, with an ERG email signature, remarks, “Steve Baker has kindly offered to brief the group on the contents of the Great Repeal Bill.” </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 20.09.09.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 20.09.09.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The Repeal Bill, formally known as the EU Withdrawal Bill, is a critical piece of legislation which has the primary aim of ensuring EU law will no longer be applied in the UK after exit from the European Union. It aims to also end the power of the European Court of Justice.</p><p dir="ltr">Baker publicly left the ERG when he was promoted into May’s administration following the 2017 general election. But Baker’s severing of formal ties with the ERG appears to have been merely an administrative gesture. </p><p dir="ltr">One Whitehall official with DExEU connections told openDemocracy: “Those close to Mr Baker regarded him as never really leaving the ERG. He clearly saw the group as a necessary powerbase and these emails show how keen he was [to] remain a general rather than the observer he should have been.”</p><p dir="ltr">Previously openDemocracy and others have revealed that Baker held other meetings with the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">ERG</a> and lobbyists that were not recorded in transparency logs.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Baker “untouchable”</h2><p dir="ltr">Baker’s use of DExEU civil servants to contact a secretive group that some regard as a ‘party within a party’ could merit investigation by the Cabinet Office. But pro-EU Tory backbenchers believe such complaints are currently pointless. One told openDemocracy: “Baker in many respects is untouchable. His lead role in the ERG, and the damage he could inflict, gives him political armour.”</p><p dir="ltr">Despite taking taxpayers’ money to fund their operations, the ERG has repeatedly refused to make public the names of its members. In the correspondence released to openDemocracy, DExEU has redacted all the email addresses of those expected to attend Baker’s briefing, citing data protection rules. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 20.14.26.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 20.14.26.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="216" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Since his resignation last month, Baker has quickly slotted back into a leadership role among ERG MPs. He has publicly <a href="https://twitter.com/SteveBakerHW/status/1034054316938747904?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet">dismissed fears</a> over a ‘no deal’ Brexit. </p><p dir="ltr">The ERG’s <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/conservatives-brexit-theresa-may-chequers-deal-tory-party-erg-a8491256.html">hard-Brexit policy paper</a> by Baker and Rees-Mogg is expected to attack May’s Chequers plan and question the merits of any ties with the EU. Rumours of its content have suggested it will describe May’s plan as continuing to honour rules handed down by Brussels.</p><h2 dir="ltr">Marshalling his troops</h2><p dir="ltr">In a speech to the Commons in July, Baker threatened to scupper any “high-alignment” deal with the EU when it came to the Commons. He offered a barely-coded warning that there were 40-plus hard-Brexiteers—seen as a reference to the ERG—who would vote with the SNP and Labour to kill off the Chequers plan.</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/james-cusick-jenna-corderoy-peter-geoghegan/uk-government-minister-hides-leading-role-with-hard-brex">previously revealed</a> that Baker was a regular attender at ERG meetings in the House of Commons during his time as a minister. Despite criticism from Labour MP Ben Bradshaw that his failure to publicly list such appearances contravened ministerial rules, Baker claimed his attendance at ERG gatherings was only on a personal, rather than a ministerial, basis.</p><p dir="ltr">A Cabinet Office examination accepted Baker’s reassurance that his attendance at ERG meetings which discussed Brexit policy could be put down to a “personal” interest as a constituency MP rather than ministerial interest. </p><p dir="ltr">Baker took over as chair of the ERG in 2016 and is credited with a relaunch that turned it from a largely ignored backwater of euro-scepticism into an effective 80-strong gathering of MPs aiming to end the “<a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/tory-euroskeptic-brexit-rebellion-cameron-eu/">EU’s despotism</a>”. He is on record stating that the entire EU needs to be “wholly torn down” and that it was a barrier to international “free trade and peace”.</p><p dir="ltr">When Baker was promoted into the government after the June 2017 general election, the chair of the ERG passed to Suella Braverman. Her promotion into DExEU alongside Baker later that year saw the chair pass to Rees-Mogg.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/braverman.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/braverman.jpg" alt="" title="" width="300" height="168" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suella Braverman. Image, Channel 4 News, fair use.</span></span></span></p><h2 dir="ltr">Lack of transparency</h2><p dir="ltr">Baker has been criticised previously for failing to respect ministerial rules in office. Earlier this year, <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.jnY9EV5z9#.xdBk6EXDk">Buzzfeed</a> reported that Baker had a series of undisclosed meetings with Shanker Singham, formerly of the Legatum Institute and now at the Institute of Economic Affairs.</p><p dir="ltr">More recently, Baker was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/brexit-influencing-game-iea-us-rancher-tucker-link">in the spotlight</a> after it emerged that Singham had introduced the Brexit minister to controversial US agribusinesses to discuss opportunities that might arise from a deregulated post-Brexit UK.</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA denied that the meetings with Baker, along with others arranged with the then foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, the then Brexit secretary, David Davis, and the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, were part of an elaborate ‘cash for access’ programme.</p><p dir="ltr">An aide working for Baker told Greenpeace—which had been investigating the IEA’s US donor connections—that any suggestion the then Brexit minister attended meetings because “access” to him had been sold “is entirely false”.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, Baker was again in the news when it emerged that he had invested £70,000 in a company that is encouraging investors to buy gold to <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/steve-baker-glint-pay-buy-gold-to-avoid-impact-of-brexit-no-deal-sterling-2018-8">avoid the hit of a no-deal Brexit</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">The allegations in this piece were put to Steve Baker’s office. He has yet to respond.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Correction, 31 August 2018: When this article was first published, it mistook the status of Steve Baker's ministerial position. This has now been corrected.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e">The new Brexit minister, the arms industry, the American hard right… and Equatorial Guinea</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec">Revealed: The Tory MPs using taxpayers’ cash to fund a secretive hard-Brexit group</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick/six-of-theresa-may-s-cabinet-are-paid-up-members-of-secret-group-demanding">Six of Theresa May’s cabinet are paid up “members” of secret group demanding a total break from the European Union </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Conservative Party investigations Brexit European Research Group DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Jenna Corderoy James Cusick Wed, 29 Aug 2018 05:00:00 +0000 James Cusick, Jenna Corderoy and Peter Geoghegan 119465 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: how the UK’s powerful right-wing think tanks and Conservative MPs work together https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/revealed-how-uk-s-powerful-right-wing-think-tanks-and-conse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Institute of Economic Affairs, accused of offering US donors access to government ministers, is among right-wing think tanks meeting monthly. Conservative MPs have attended, too.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_3385.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/IMG_3385.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>55 Tufton Street, where many of the meetings take place. Image, Adam Ramsay, CC2.0.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The UK’s leading right-wing think tanks discuss strategy and tactics at regular monthly meetings that have been attended by Conservative MPs, openDemocracy has learned. Among those in attendance are the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), which has been accused of offering donors access to government ministers and civil servants.</p><p dir="ltr">Politicians and campaigners say the meetings raise concerns about transparency in British politics. Separately, openDemocracy can reveal today that the IEA also receives regular funding from British American Tobacco. The IEA does <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-charity-watchdog-probes-pro-brexit-anti-nhs-think-tank">not declare its funders</a>,</p><p dir="ltr">The regular think tank meetings are chaired jointly by staff from the pro-Brexit website Brexit Central and low-tax campaigners the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA). Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, chair of the Tories’ policy commission, recently tweeted his thanks to both Brexit Central editor Jonathan Isaby and TPA campaign manager James Price “for their invitation to speak at Tuesday meeting of think tanks”. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 18.05.02.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 18.05.02.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="120" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The think tank meetings have taken place at 55 Tufton Street, home to numerous think tanks and lobbying outfits. Among them are the TPA, until 2015 the pro-Brexit group Business for Britain, and the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which denies the overwhelming scientific consensus around humans causing climate change. </p><p dir="ltr">Monthly meetings are regularly attended by at least 30 people including representatives from free-market think tanks the Adam Smith Institute and the Centre for Policy Studies, and news site Brexit Central, as well as the IEA and the TPA. A source familiar with the meetings said that it was an opportunity “for everyone to convene together and align their messaging towards the same goal” on everything from Brexit to Labour party policy announcements.</p><p dir="ltr">Meetings are said to include a number of guest speakers and updates from each think tank, as well as planning of future activities. “You would divvy things up, sometimes might say, ‘The IEA would do that,’ or, ‘The TPA should so this,’” the source added. </p><h2 dir="ltr">Ministerial access</h2><p dir="ltr">The TPA, Brexit Central and the IEA have all confirmed to openDemocracy that they participate in the monthly meeting. Some of these groups had <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/18/vote-leave-whistleblower-sues-taxpayers-alliance-for-unfair-dismissal">previously dismissed</a> reports that they attended fortnightly meetings involving various right-wing think tanks. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA’s access to government ministers and senior officials have been in the spotlight this week after an investigation by Greenpeace and The Guardian secretly filmed the think tank’s director Mark Littlewood telling <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/brexit-influencing-game-iea-us-rancher-tucker-link">undercover reporters</a> that his organisation was “in the Brexit-influencing game” and that US donors could get to know ministers on “first name terms”. </p><p dir="ltr">The IEA is a registered charity. The Charity Commission is currently investigating the think tank over <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/30/labour-calls-for-inquiry-into-iea-thinktank-over-cash-for-access-claims">concerns about its political independence</a>. Separately, questions have been raised over whether the IEA should be registered as a lobbyist. The IEA said that the Guardian story was “incorrect”, adding, “We have put in a complaint calling for a retraction.”</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, the think tank hired Shanker Singham, whose work on trade for another think tank, Legatum, proved controversial. The Charity Commission later <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">concluded a report he had co-written</a> on the benefits of Brexit had “failed to met the required standards of balance and neutrality”.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham has been said to enjoy “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/mapped-shanker-singhams-unparalleled-access-to-government-ministers-a">unparalleled access</a>” to the Brexit process, including regular meetings with a host of ministers. Singham’s contact with Steve Baker, a former minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union, came under particular scrutiny after <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.tskv2xp0V#.pc1bznqBj">BuzzFeed reported</a> that Baker had failed to declare frequent meetings with the adviser. Baker told BuzzFeed that they had not discussed government business and so there was no requirement to register the meetings. </p><p dir="ltr">Dominic Raab, the new Brexit secretary, is also one of the IEA’s most vocal supporters, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">crediting its founders</a> with inspiring deregulations, union reforms and business tax cuts that “saved Britain”.</p><h2 dir="ltr">‘Revolving door’</h2><p dir="ltr">Commenting on openDemocracy’s revelations about the regular think tank meetings, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “This raises further concerns about the role and influence of the IEA and other shady, non-transparent lobby groups.</p><p dir="ltr">“It seems as if there is a revolving door between right-wing lobbyists, undisclosed donors and senior hard Brexiters expressing undue and unaccountable influence on this extremely important area of public policy.”</p><p dir="ltr">Till Bruckner, advocacy manager for transparency advocates Transparify, said: “Politically influential nonprofits that take money from hidden hands behind closed doors raise red flags because it is completely unclear who funds their operations, and for what purposes. Democracy is undermined when political agendas and discourse are influenced by dark money groups. For this reason, elected representatives and the media should steer clear of them."</p><p dir="ltr">After responding to openDemocracy’s queries earlier today, James Price of the TPA published some of his responses on the campaign group’s <a href="https://www.taxpayersalliance.com/tpa_confirms_that_people_can_meet_in_room_and_disagree_in_good_faith">blog</a> confirming that the meetings take place. </p><p dir="ltr">“The meeting is an opportunity for people to let others know what research they are working on; what public events they are holding—which is useful information to avoid diary clashes, as I’m sure you can understand; and to hear from interesting speakers from the worlds of politics and the media (shocker, given that we work in the worlds of politics and the media),” Price told openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">IEA communications officer Nerissa Chesterfield said that the regular meetings “involve like-minded groups, the purpose of which is to update each other on the reports and research they have published or are currently working on. Yes, the IEA is among the regular attendees and we attend to outline and explain our latest research.”</p><p dir="ltr">Brexit Central editor Jonathan Isaby said: “In a personal capacity I chair a monthly meeting of individuals on the broad centre-right with an interest in public policy.” </p><h2 dir="ltr">Tobacco cash and ‘astroturfing’</h2><p dir="ltr">The Greenpeace/Guardian investigation revealed for the first time that the IEA has long received funding from the oil company BP. openDemocracy can reveal today that the group also receives regular funding from British American Tobacco. In a letter to the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health, which holds shares in the company, BAT confirmed that it contributed “circa £40,000” to the think tank in each of 2015, 2016 and 2017, and expected to do so again in 2018. </p><p dir="ltr">The website <a href="http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs#2016_.22Broadly_Similar_to_2015.22_and_.22Likely_be_the_Same_in_2017.22">Tobacco Tactics </a>has previously revealed donations from British American Tobacco up to 2016, and that the think tank has worked with Phillip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International within the last five years. The current status of these relationships is unknown.</p><p dir="ltr">Asked about these donations, Chesterfield commented: “We respect the privacy of our donors and don’t place a list of them in the public domain; a cornerstone of a free society is being able to associate freely and we want to uphold that. However, our donors are free to make their donations known if they wish to.”</p><p dir="ltr">openDemocracy has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">previously revealed</a> that in 2014, the IEA received a grant of $155,000 from the US-based Templeton Foundation to “<a href="https://templeton.org/grant/encouraging-independence-and-enterprise-for-a-healthy-old-age">seek alternatives</a>” to “public, pay-as-you-go financed systems of pensions, disability insurance, healthcare and long-term care”, and to promote privatisation of each of these areas. </p><p dir="ltr">Chesterfield rejected allegations that funders influenced IEA publications. “We make independent editorial decisions and then seek funding. The work we undertake is work we will do regardless of whether it raises donations,” she said.</p><p dir="ltr">The extent to which the TPA, the IEA and others appear in the media has also attracted attention. A <a href="https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/The_DirectorGeneral_of_the_BBC_Tony_Hall_BBC_Stop_giving_airtime_to_organisations_whose_funding_is_not_transparent/?aglhIab">campaign has been launched</a> by South West England Green MEP Molly Scott Cato calling on the BBC not to invite guests who do not divulge their organisation’s funders. </p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, Scottish National Party MP Martin Doherty-Hughes said: “The more we understand about the activities of these groups, the more it becomes apparent that we’re dealing with ‘astroturfing’ on an industrial basis, with big-money donors hiding behind a veneer of legitimacy to push their own narrow agenda. We need a clear and unambiguous picture of who is behind this model, and a ban on them appearing in the media until we have this transparency.”</p><p dir="ltr">Many of the groups involved in the monthly think tank meetings had strong links with the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum. Former Vote Leave boss Matthew Elliott founded the TPA and is ‘editor at large’ at Brexit Central.</p><p dir="ltr">Vote Leave's treasurer <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-jon-moynihan-obe-to-its-board-of-trustees/">Jon Moynihan</a> was appointed to the IEA’s board earlier this year. The think tank also hired <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/institute-of-economic-affairs-appoints-new-digital-manger-darren-grimes/">Darren Grimes</a> as its digital manager. Grimes, whose BeLeave campaign received more than £600,000 from Vote Leave in the final weeks of the referendum, had previously worked for Brexit Central. Grimes was recently <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/17/darren-grimes-the-student-pro-brexit-activist-fined-22k-vote-leave">fined £20,000</a> by the Electoral Commission for breaking electoral law over donations to BeLeave, the campaign that he headed.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>On August 1 this piece was amended to reflect that Business for Britain is no longer based at 55 Tufton Street and that James Price corresponded with openDemocracy as well as publishing portions of this correspondence on the TPA website.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dominic-raab-is-he-iea-s-man-in-government">Dominic Raab: is he the IEA’s man in government?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal">Liam Fox caught in fresh “lobbyists as advisers” scandal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK investigations Conservative Party Institute of Economic Affairs DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 31 Jul 2018 17:26:36 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 119082 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The DUP’s Facebook ads for Brexit targeted voters outside Northern Ireland https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/dup-s-facebook-ads-for-brexit-targeted-voters-outside-north <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Information released by Facebook shows the DUP said Brexit would be “better for our borders”.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.56.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.56.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A DUP Facebook advert, as released by Facebook.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">New Facebook data released by the parliamentary inquiry into Fake News shows that online adverts from the Democratic Unionist Party during the Brexit referendum campaign were targeted overwhelmingly at England, Scotland and Wales, rather than at the DUP’s home territory of Northern Ireland, openDemocracy can reveal.</p><p dir="ltr">The Facebook data also shows that the DUP adverts included an image saying a Leave vote would be “better for our borders”— a claim that has proven controversial in Northern Ireland, where many voters have expressed concern about what Brexit will mean for the borders with Ireland and with the rest of the UK. The other adverts said “better for jobs”, “better for family budgets” and “better for security”.</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP adverts were arranged by the firm AggregateIQ and funded with a £435,000 donation from an unknown source. They were seen by up to 4.7 million times in England, Scotland and Wales, but only up to 860,000 times in Northern Ireland itself, according to openDemocracy’s calculations.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.31.57.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.31.57.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span> openDemocracy first started investigating the DUP’s Brexit campaign after coming across pro-Brexit posters in Scotland funded by the party, and a wrap-around advert in Metro newspaper, which appeared across England, Scotland and Wales. Metro isn’t distributed in Northern Ireland. </p><p dir="ltr">The £435,000 donation to the DUP came to the party via a group called the Constitutional Research Council, which is chaired by Richard Cook, former vice-chair of the Scottish Conservatives party. Speaking about Cook at Prime Minister’s Questions, Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons, described Cook <a href="https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-07-04/debates/4FEC9C7F-CFE0-4CC0-8B98-58927A0A54E2/PrimeMinister">as having</a> “a trail of involvement in illegal activities and foreign money”.</p><p dir="ltr">The new information from Facebook, released by the Fake News Inquiry, also included adverts from Vote Leave and from the BeLeave campaign. The two groups were recently fined by the Electoral Commission who found that BeLeave’s campaign was co-ordinated with Vote Leave, and therefore that its expenditure on these advertisements should have been counted as Vote Leave expenditure, which took Vote Leave over its £7m spending limit by more than £500,000.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to openDemocracy, Naomi Long, leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party, raised concerns about the revelation. She said:</p><p dir="ltr">“These figures raise further questions as to whether there was any co-ordination of campaigns throughout the EU referendum in order to get around legal spending limits.</p><p dir="ltr">‘With the DUP’s messaging in this social media campaign, particularly around "securing borders" and their targeting strategy geared more towards a GB rather than NI audience, questions must be asked as to why precisely these were chosen and whether the large campaign donation which they received from the shadowy Constitutional Research Council came with any direction as to how the money should be spent and where. </p><p dir="ltr">‘This is just one of many concerns which have been aired around the DUP’s alleged conduct during the referendum, as well as the wider campaign. The Electoral Commission should be looking closely at these figures and following up to ensure full transparency.’</p><p dir="ltr">The DUP did not respond to our request for a comment.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.32.15.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.32.15.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.44.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 13.30.44.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/dup-donaldson-can-t-remember-why-his-brexit-campaign-spent-more-than-">DUP Donaldson can’t remember why his Brexit campaign spent more than £32,000 on controversial data analytics company linked to Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/meet-soopa-doopa-branding-agency-who-delivered-brexit">Meet the Soopa Doopa branding agency that delivered Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Northern Ireland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Northern Ireland UK Facebook Brexit Democratic Unionist Party investigations DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Sat, 28 Jul 2018 11:29:46 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 119050 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The laws protecting Britain's democracy from big money are broken https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/laws-protecting-britains-democracy-from-big-money-are-broken <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>You can be fined more for touting football tickets than you can for subverting Britain's democratic process.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Dr Evil_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Dr Evil_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="336" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p dir="ltr">In Mike Myers’ 90s classic Austin Powers, Dr Evil, the baddie transported from the 1960s, threatens to blow up the world unless he’s paid a ransom. Confused by inflation, however, he demands only&nbsp;“<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKKHSAE1gIs">one million dollars</a>”, much to everyone’s mirth.</p><p dir="ltr">In related news, the Electoral Commission has fined Vote Leave, Darren Grimes and Veterans for Britain for breaching a string of laws during the European referendum. The amounts they will have to stump up, respectively, are £61,000, £20,000, and £250.</p><p dir="ltr">We’ll come back to Grimes, let’s focus on the big player. Vote Leave had a spending limit of £7 million during the final ten weeks of the referendum. The organisation is being fined for breaching that limit by nearly half a million pounds – it spent, according to the Electoral Commission, £7,449,079. This means that the fine is only 0.8% of its expenditure during the final sprint of the referendum. It’s the sort of amount that a future campaign could write off at the outset as the cost of doing business. It’s not even a very big cost of doing business: it’s less than Vote Leave spent on one batch of materials on the <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Api/Spending/Invoices/18316">13th of June 2016</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">And the £61,000 fine is not, in fact, just for one breach of the rules, but for four separate breaches. For three of these, Vote Leave incurred the maximum fine of £20,000, while the fourth – not filing all the correct invoices – is only seen as worthy of a £1,000 fine.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s right. The maximum fine for breaking the laws of our democracy is £20,000. Partly, of course, this is an anachronism. £20,000 was written into election law in the year 2000. If it had kept up with inflation, it would be around £32,000 today. Partly, it’s about politicians looking out for their own: the maximum fine for a ticket tout at a football match <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/unlimited-fines-for-serious-offences">is unlimited</a>. The maximum fine for anyone caught making a false statement while trying to navigate the labyrinthine benefits system <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/unlimited-fines-for-serious-offences">is unlimited</a>. Politicians trust our judicial system to impose a fair penalty on other people. But when it comes to the kinds of crime that they might commit themselves, there are careful safeguards to stop things getting out of hand.</p><p dir="ltr">As the Electoral Commision pointed out to me today, its maximum fine isn’t even equivalent to other similar regulators. A spokesperson said: “Our powers to fine should be commensurate with those of comparable regulators. The Information Commissioner’s Office is a relevant example. They have been able to fine up to £500,000 for breaches of data protection rules, and shortly that level is to significantly further increase. For serious breaches of Parliament’s rules on the funding of and spending that influencing elections and referendums, the Commission should be enabled to impose a significant level of fine.”</p><p>Then there’s the question of who is held to account by our laws. Vote Leave was run by one of Britain’s best-known political operators, Matthew Elliott. It was fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. Yet the two people left holding the baby are, as openDemocracy has previously revealed, a former pram-maker called Alan Halsell and Darren Grimes, who was a 21-year-old fashion student at the time.</p><p dir="ltr">Grimes appears at every moment to have done roughly what he was told by his older colleagues –&nbsp;apart, perhaps, from messing up some forms. And yet he’s being fined, personally, £20,000 (unless those older colleagues have the good grace to help him out). Halsell is a businessman, lawyer and former chairman of Silver Cross, the company that makes those posh prams. He was the ‘responsible person’ for Vote Leave, and, as the Electoral&nbsp;Commission report outlines, knew or should have known what was going on, and knew or should have known better. But it’s hard not to feel that the people who really ran the campaign are getting away with it.</p><p dir="ltr">The reason that Grimes and Halsall are in the firing line is that the commission is allowed to pursue only&nbsp;those listed as the ‘responsible person’. Any attempt to investigate any of the other characters who may or may not have been involved would be the responsibility of the police.</p><p dir="ltr">And so what will the police do? We don’t yet know how the Metropolitan Police will respond to the information they have been given today about Vote Leave. However, they have had more than two months now to respond to a similar case: on 11 May, the Electoral Commission found that Leave.EU <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/243009/Report-on-Investigation-Leave.EU.pdf">breached election law</a>, and referred its responsible person, Liz Bilney, to the Met. We haven’t heard anything since. So I rang the Met press office to ask what has happened since. The press officer went away to check their system. He said nothing came up, and he’s passed me to the special investigations team, who got back this evening with one line: “still under referral so no update”.</p><p>Perhaps most confusingly for many people, it’s easy to feel like all of this will amount to nothing. If an MP is believed to have broken election laws to win their seat, then an election court will sit. If they are found guilty, there will be a rerun – remember <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2010/dec/03/woolas-analysis-election-court-judgment">Phil Woolas</a>, whose election as an MP was declared void after an election court ruled that he <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2010/dec/03/woolas-analysis-election-court-judgment">had lied about his opponent</a> in his leaflets. This law also applies if a local authority runs a referendum, as lawyer <a href="https://twitter.com/AdamWagner1/status/1019114112276750336">Adam Wagner</a> points out. However, because the European referendum was non-binding, and the result didn’t produce a legal outcome (we are leaving the EU not because Britain voted Leave, but because MPs voted to trigger article 50), the result of the referendum cannot be challenged in court.</p><p dir="ltr">This is post-modern Britain at its best. Vote Leave broke the law, but its victory in the referendum can’t be challenged in an election court because the vote wasn’t legally binding. There is a regulator, but it can issue only&nbsp;piddling fines to fringe figures. The police seem to have little interest in policing the powerful, and the rules, ultimately, are for losers.</p><p dir="ltr">If one thing has become clear from spending a year investigating the money behind the Brexit campaign, it's this: the rules of British democracy are utterly broken. And until we mend them, the rich and powerful will run amok.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend ‘as much as necessary to win’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-evidence-that-leave-groups-co-ordinated-to-get-round-re">&#039;Crimes&#039; committed by Brexit campaigners? One extraordinary coincidence offers a new clue</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 17 Jul 2018 20:42:42 +0000 Adam Ramsay 118909 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trump's visit marks the start of shock doctrine Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/trumps-visit-marks-start-of-shock-doctrine-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The radical right want a no-deal Brexit so they can force Britain into a disaster capitalist trade deal with the USA.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Trump baby.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Trump baby.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Trump Baby, Twitter, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Trump landed with a negotiating position. If Theresa May’s Brexit plan goes ahead, it would probably “kill the deal”, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44815558">he told</a> The Sun, referring to the trade agreement he’s here to discuss.</p><p dir="ltr">To understand what’s really going on here, we need to rewind by a week, to a tweet from the man who funded Brexit, Arron Banks: “In Bermuda with @Nigel_Farage, saying he will come back as UKIP leader if Brexit not back on track, Tories in marginally seats watch out! Lightening storm hit studio shortly afterwards - omens…”</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">In Bermuda with <a href="https://twitter.com/Nigel_Farage?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Nigel_Farage</a> saying he will come back as UKIP leader if Brexit not back on track , Tories in marginally seats watch out! Lightening storm hit studio shortly afterwards - omens... <a href="https://t.co/h3EZwGT8nO">https://t.co/h3EZwGT8nO</a></p>— Arron Banks (@Arron_banks) <a href="https://twitter.com/Arron_banks/status/1016396021172236291?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote> <p> Perhaps the most apt of omens we could ask for, the prospect of two of the men who delivered Brexit returning from a tax haven to take their country back. Because whatever “Leave” meant to the millions who voted for it, it has always been about something else for the elite who pushed it – and for Donald Trump more than any of them.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The term “Shock Doctrine” was first used by Naomi Klein in her 2007 book of the same name. With the subheader “The rise of disaster capitalism”, she outlined her thesis: while advocates of neoliberal capitalism said it would dance hand in hand with democracy as these ideologies encircled the world, in fact neoliberalism marches in step with violence and disaster.</p><p dir="ltr">In Chile, the dictator Augusto Pinochet delivered the radical right plans concocted by economist Milton Friedman on the back of his 1973 military coup and aided by the torture and murder of thousands, often using electronic batons to literally shock people into acquiescence. Throughout the late 20th century, the International Monetary Fund came into former colonies when they faced crises and used the leverage of much-needed loans to force mass privatisations, tax cuts for the rich and public spending cuts for the rest.</p><p dir="ltr">After the tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean in 2004, beaches were privatised by hotels. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Klein has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/06/naomi-klein-how-power-profits-from-disaster">since written</a>, “I watched hordes of private military contractors descend on the flooded city to find ways to profit from the disaster, even as thousands of the city’s residents, abandoned by their government, were treated like dangerous criminals just for trying to survive.”</p><p dir="ltr">From the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/06/naomi-klein-how-power-profits-from-disaster">privatisation of war</a> in Iraq and Afghanistan to the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/nov/13/exxon-mobil-kurdistan-exploration">divvying up</a> of oil contracts afterwards, the rich and powerful and their pet governments have become expert in using crises to ensure that they continue to profit as ordinary people lose everything.</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps the most important example of disaster capitalism is what happened as the former<a href="http://shockdoctrinesummary.blogspot.com/2009/04/1990s-russia.html"> Soviet Union fell apart</a> in the 1990s. While President Boris Yeltsin bumbled on the international stage, Russia was plundered. Powerful men took control of key economic assets, moving billions of dollars offshore and turning themselves into oligarchs overnight.</p><p dir="ltr">In the midst of all of this, Britain has played an important role. The vestigial empire – &nbsp;Overseas Territories like Bermuda, Gibraltar, and the Cayman and Virgin Islands; and Crown Protectorates the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey – transformed themselves, along with London, into the planet’s most important network of tax havens and secrecy areas. When the world’s oligarchs asset strip countries in crisis and move the plunder offshore, they are usually placing it under the protection of Her Majesty’s Navy.</p><p dir="ltr">As Peter Geoghegan and I have followed the dark money that funded the Brexit campaign, there is one consistent factor: almost all of it has been funnelled through these quirks in the British constitution. Whether it’s Northern Ireland with its secrecy laws or Arron Banks’ use of Gibraltar and Mann as shelters for his cash, the people who funded the drive to pull Britain out of the EU certainly know how to navigate the dark corners of the country's constitutional cave network.</p><p dir="ltr">This, surely, is the easiest way to understand the various connections between Brexit and Russia. The Kremlin is no longer the heart of the Soviet Union. It’s at the centre of a network of billionaire power built by Russia’s disaster capitalist-in-chief: Vladimir Putin, <a href="http://time.com/money/4641093/vladimir-putin-net-worth/">sometimes said to be</a> the richest man in the world. It’s no surprise that this vortex of neoliberal plunder would want to use crisis to influence the management of their preferred money laundry.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s not just Russians. Britain’s role for many of the world’s richest lies in our skill in cleaning up their questionable money. But the EU is endlessly threatening to regulate, to force more transparency, to make it harder to stash their cash in the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/series/global-laundromat">world’s laundromat</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">And it’s not just about tax havens and their users: look at the fortunes made on the money markets as the price of the pound <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-06-25/brexit-big-short-how-pollsters-helped-hedge-funds-beat-the-crash">crashed around</a> on referendum night, or the high-risk corners of the City of London which seemed much more likely to support Brexit than their more conventional banking neighbours. Or look at the mercenaries.</p><p dir="ltr">Over the past fifteen years, a key part of disaster capitalism has been the increasing privatisation of the military. “Security firms” have emerged, and taken on work once done by armies and police forces. And again, Britain is at the centre of this: as the NGO War on Want <a href="https://waronwant.org/Mercenaries-Unleashed">has documented</a>, since the invasion of Iraq, Britain has become the world leader in this mercenary industry. Once again, the links between the Brexit elite and the world of privatised security are everywhere we turn in our investigations: Cambridge Analytica is the wing of privatised <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">defence contractor SCL</a>. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Veterans for Britain</a> – one of the campaign groups investigated by the Electoral Commission – has a string of connections to the private security industry.</p><p dir="ltr">With every industry comes a lobby, and both the money-laundering lobby and the mercenary lobby have a strong interest in the UK slipping outside the common rules and regulations of the EU. It’s no surprise that they came in behind Brexit.</p><p dir="ltr">This week has been bookended by two key moments for these groups. On Monday, Dominic Raab was appointed as Brexit secretary. Perhaps most famous for saying British workers are too lazy, Raab has been nurtured by the Institute for Economic Affairs, the UK’s original radical right think tank, which refuses to say how it’s funded, but which has published more than one ‘<a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/clamping-down-on-offshore-financial-centres-would-not-raise-tax-revenue/">report</a>’ on the <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/tax-havens-are-a-force-for-good/">advantages of tax havens</a> since the Brexit vote. It seems likely he’ll end up essentially as the IEA's man in government.</p><p dir="ltr">The week ends with the arrival of Trump in the country. Protests will largely focus on his racism and misogyny, but it’s important that we also remember the reason that the government tells us he’s here: for talks on a trade deal.</p><p dir="ltr">Here we will finally get to the main point of Brexit, for those who led the charge. Last autumn, the IEA published two sides of A4 – tweeted again this week – arguing ‘<a href="https://iea.org.uk/publications/lets-get-ready-for-no-deal/">let’s get ready for no deal Brexit</a>’. “A ‘no deal’ scenario in which the UK simply leaves the Single Market and Customs Union in 2019, does not have to be the ‘catastrophe’ that many fear.” they say in their summary “...the UK would be able to crack on with its own trade deals with the rest of the world”.</p><p dir="ltr">Read between the lines, and I’d argue they are saying what Klein would predict: in the crisis of a cliff-edge Brexit, people will be forced to accept the kind of trade deal that groups like the IEA dream about.</p><p dir="ltr">Its brief note focuses largely on the most obvious question of any trade deal: tariffs. It will come as a surprise to no one to hear that a free-market think tank is against them. What it doesn’t talk about is what will likely be most of the content of any major trade deal with the US: what’s normally known as ‘non-tariff barriers’. These can include regulations which protect our food, our hedgerows, our hedgehogs, our education system, our air and our water from whatever scheme businesses might concoct to profit from them. They can include many of our basic rights as workers, students, consumers and citizens. The ownership of British healthcare – as my colleague Caroline Molloy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/nhs-theresa-mays-dowry-gift-to-donald-trump">has explained</a> – will be up for grabs, as will any other corner of life currently protected from the profiteering of big business.</p><p dir="ltr">During the vast fight over <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ttip">the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership</a>, we saw how far the Obama administration tried to force the EU to kneel before American capital. We saw how they wanted any disputes to be arbitrated in corporate courts. Many of the worst of those proposals were stopped by the strength of the left across Europe uniting to resist them.</p><p dir="ltr">A cliff-edge Brexit would leave the British left standing alone against our own, bespoke, Trumpian redraft of TTIP. We won’t have Belgian parliaments to hold up the process, or German NGOs to interpret the text, or the combined trade power of Europe to stand up to the White House.</p><p dir="ltr">Watch their speeches and read their reports, and it’s increasingly clear that this is what Britain’s hard Brexit elite want. The crisis of a no-deal Brexit is the disaster they seek to force through a US trade deal which will turn Britain into a deregulated offshore haven for the rich, and a service economy workhouse for the rest, just as they’ve long proposed.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/brexit-negotiations-why-is-liberal-media-accepting-first-lie-of-nationalism">Brexit is the home-coming for the shock doctrine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/who-are-veterans-for-britain">Who are Veterans for Britain?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/what-weve-discovered-in-year-investigating-dark-money-that-funded-brexit-me">What we&#039;ve discovered in a year investigating the dark money that funded Brexit means we can&#039;t stop now</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Fri, 13 Jul 2018 12:57:04 +0000 Adam Ramsay 118854 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "Serious flaw" in management of Brexit donor Arron Banks's charity https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/serious-flaw-in-management-of-brexit-donor-arron-bankss-charity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="color: #222222; font-family: sans-serif;">Charity Commission finds Love Saves the Day “inadequately” managed and administered. Trustees, including Banks and other senior Leave.EU staff, failed to properly account for charitable funds.</span><br style="color: #222222; font-family: sans-serif;" /></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/PA-33531217.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/PA-33531217.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A charity set up by Brexit backer Arron Banks has been strongly criticised by the Charity Commission. The regulator found a “serious flaw” in how the Love Saves the Day Foundation was managed and administered, with trustees including Banks and Leave.EU chief executive Liz Bilney, failing to properly account for all charitable funds.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks, who claims to have spent more than £8m on the campaign to leave the European Union, has become of the most controversial characters in British politics, with questions raised over everything from the size of his fortune to the extent of his links with Russia.</p><p dir="ltr">Love Saves the Day was set up in 2015. The charity’s website reported charitable work worth hundreds of thousands of pounds taking place around the world, including in Lesotho and Belize. <br class="kix-line-break" /><br class="kix-line-break" />But a Charity Commission investigation – opened after media reports of Banks’s Brexit spending – found that the charity’s trustees “were not properly accounting for all charitable funds”. The charity’s published accounts showed no income or expenditure.</p><p dir="ltr">The regulator also told trustees that the charity’s website “must be taken offline as a matter of urgency” as it “risked misleading the public due to the charity’s inactivity.” Love Saves the Day has since been wound up and its website closed down.</p><p dir="ltr">“The public rightly expect high standards of governance, transparency and accountability of charities. The trustees of Love Saves the Day fell short of these expectations with their inadequate management and administration of the charity,” said David Holdsworth, Deputy CEO of the Charity Commission.</p><p dir="ltr">Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: “Once again, Mr Banks, the main funder of the campaign for Brexit, has been found to have made misleading statements about his affairs. This is why it is so important we have a full investigation into how the campaign for Brexit was funded and the sources of that money, so that the public can have confidence in the legality of the campaign and the legitimacy of the result.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">SNP MP Martin Doherty-Hughes said: "<span>As is now abundantly clear, the Brexit peddled by Banks and his cronies was an entirely self-interested one which didn't spend much time worrying about the common good."</span></p><p dir="ltr">Arron Banks rejected the Charity Commission’s findings, saying that Love Saves the Day “closed due to difficulties with the supporting law firm acting as a trustee”, adding "I bet Holdsworth voted Remain!”</p><p dir="ltr">Banks is biggest political donor on record in Britain. After a major openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">investigation</a> last year found serious questions about the extent of Banks’s wealth, the Electoral Commission launched a fresh investigation into Banks’s Brexit campaigning. </p><p dir="ltr">In May, the electoral regulator fined Leave.EU £70,000 for breaching electoral law and referred CEO Liz Bilney to the Metropolitan Police. Bilney was also a trustee of Love Saves the Day.</p><p dir="ltr">In June 2015, Love Saves the Day told the Charity Commission that it had received requests from interested donors, according to correspondence released to <em><a href="https://theferret.scot/arron-banks-winds-charity-regulator-investigates/">the Ferret</a></em> under freedom of information legislation last year. The charity also told the regulator that trustees would receive monthly financial reports.</p><p dir="ltr">At the time, the trustee said that the charity was due to receive a £10,000 donation. The Charity Commission found this £10,000 was never received by Love Saves The Day Foundation. Instead, the trustees had instructed the donor to transfer the funds directly to another charity. </p><p dir="ltr">“If a trustee provides funding to a charity, then it must be declared as income in the charity’s accounts, along with any related expenditure. By not doing so, the trustees were not properly accounting for all charitable funds,” the Charity Commission report said.</p><p dir="ltr">Outside of the UK, Love Saves the Day reported working in two countries close to Banks’s business interests: Belize and Lesotho. Among the charity’s trustees was former Leave.EU communications director, Andy Wigmore. A naturalised Belizian, Wigmore represented his adopted country in shooting at the 2016 Olympic Games and he was Belize’s diplomatic envoy to the UK before <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/leave-crusader-loses-belize-envoy-job-after-johnson-intervention-s82nrw7t3">losing that job</a> last year.</p><p dir="ltr">Another trustee, James Pryor, worked in Lesotho on numerous projects. Ahead of the 2015 general election in Lesotho Pryor worked for another Banks connected company, <a href="http://www.chartwellpolitical.co.uk/what-we-do">Chartwell Political</a> advising the Basotho National Party. Wigmore and Pryor posted photos on <a href="https://www.byline.com/column/67/article/1643">social media</a> of themselves in the country “burning the midnight election oil.”</p><p dir="ltr">An openDemocracy investigation into Banks’s work in Lesotho found that rather than the Basotho National Party paying Chartwell for its advice, Chartwell was donating money to the Basotho National Party. The investigation also called into question the size of reported diamond finds at a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">Lesotho mine</a> controlled by Banks.</p><p dir="ltr">Among projects Banks has supported is the Federation of Lesotho Women Entrepreneurs. The donation was made after the Federation president Mamahlapane Magdalene Rakuoane was introduced to Banks in London, by then Lesotho High Commissioner in the UK, Felleng Makeka.</p><p dir="ltr">After she returned home, Banks gave the project around £88,000. According to documents in the public domain, this donation was not made through Love Saves the Day.</p><p dir="ltr">A press statement from Arron Banks said that he had donated over £1m to charities : “How I choose to make donations to charity is my business and my business only, in the case of Love Saves the Day, it was set up in support the many charities I choose to donate to year on year.</p><p dir="ltr">“It was closed due to difficulties with the supporting law firm acting as a trustee. </p><p dir="ltr">“Apart from this individual, to suggest, as the David Holdsworth has done, that the other trustees of Love Saves the Day fell short of expectations with inadequate management and administration is utter rubbish. The charity did not raise any money from the public or receive any donations while it was being set up."</p><p dir="ltr">Banks said that the Charity Commission report was politically motivated.</p><p dir="ltr">“In the current climate of attacks by the establishment organisations on anyone who has supported Brexit, it’s hardly surprising.</p><p dir="ltr">"I bet Holdsworth voted Remain!”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-charity-investigated-by-charity-commission">Arron Banks’ charity investigated by Charity Commission </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Civil society Democracy and government investigations Arron Banks Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Wed, 27 Jun 2018 23:00:01 +0000 Peter Geoghegan 118618 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Liam Fox caught in fresh “lobbyists as advisers” scandal https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/liam-fox-caught-in-fresh-lobbyists-as-advisors-scandal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Former Legatum trade chief Shanker Singham takes role with commercial lobbying firm – while also advising key Brexit minister Liam Fox.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Liam_Fox_with_Air_Marshal_Stuart_Peach.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Liam_Fox_with_Air_Marshal_Stuart_Peach.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Liam Fox. Image, Tech. Sgt. Michele A. Desrochers, public domain</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Transparency campaigners have accused international trade minister Liam Fox of “having trouble again seeing the line between adviser and privately-backed lobbyist” after openDemocracy learned that one of Fox’s “committee of experts” has become an advisor to one of the UK’s biggest corporate lobbying firms.</p><p>Former <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum</a> trade chief Shanker Singham, described by a former Labour minister as a ‘hard Brexit Svengali’, <a href="http://publicaffairsnews.com/articles/news/grayling-signs-%E2%80%98hard-brexit-svengali%E2%80%99-serve-senior-adviser">is now advising</a> PR and lobbying agency Grayling on Brexit and trade. Singham, who has been said to enjoy “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">unparalleled access</a>” to government ministers, has told openDemocracy that there is “no conflict” between his role as an adviser to trade minister Fox and his new position.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham is a member of trade minister Liam Fox’s ‘committee of experts’, a five-person group advising him on trade deals. Singham, a one-time Washington lobbyist, is also a director of the International Trade and Competition Unit at the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), a position he took after he left the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">controversial think tank Legatum</a> earlier this year.</p><p dir="ltr">Singham told openDemocracy that he would be remaining on the Brexit minister’s advisory committee and at the IEA.</p><p dir="ltr">Grayling is one of the UK’s leading PR and lobbying firms. The client it lists most regularly in its entry in the official register of lobbyists is the <a href="https://registerofconsultantlobbyists.force.com/CLR_Public_Profile?id=00124000006byHIAAY">National Casino Forum</a>, and the company also represents a number of major <a href="https://www.appc.org.uk/register/profile/?company=Grayling">sugar manufacturers</a>, and has previously worked for the arms companies <a href="https://www.prweek.com/article/1163654/grayling-appoints-former-uk-ceo-loretta-ahmed-middle-east-head">BAE Systems</a> and <a href="https://www.prweek.com/article/1299327/lockheed-martin-looks-man-bites-dog-integrated-uk-brief">Lockheed Martin</a>. Speaking to openDemocracy, Singham said that he was advising Grayling itself, rather than any of its clients.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33122986_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33122986_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shanker Singham, Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Singham will also assist Grayling’s stablemates Citigate Dewe Rogerson and Quiller, <a href="https://www.publicaffairsnews.com/articles/news/grayling-signs-%E2%80%98hard-brexit-svengali%E2%80%99-serve-senior-adviser">reports said</a>. Quiller’s past clients include the <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uae-paid-pr-firm-millions-brief-uk-journalists-qatar-muslim-brotherhood-attacks-1058875159">United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Last week, openDemocracy revealed the extent of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Singham’s access</a> to government ministers since the Brexit vote, showing that he has held dozens of meetings with figures including foreign secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit minister David Davis, as well as Liam Fox. Singham also had<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.eiRa1QN87#.caVnKQ72X"> undeclared meetings with another Brexit minister</a>, Steve Baker.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="650" width="100%" src="https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=1qxJiprTABHrdoQOcIBtXWqFM0o3eXl3L2Ow9iXPcupA&amp;font=Default&amp;lang=en&amp;initial_zoom=2&amp;height=650"></iframe></p><h2>“Glaring conflict of interest”, say campaigners</h2><p dir="ltr">Singham told openDemocracy that he saw no reason that his access to government officials would diminish now that he’s paid by a corporate lobbying firm and that he sees “no conflict” between his various roles. But transparency campaigners warned of “a glaring conflict of interest”.</p><p>Tamasin Cave from Spinwatch, which monitors the lobbying industry, compared Singham’s role to the scandal that led to Liam Fox being forced to resign as Defence Secretary in 2011, when it transpired that one of Fox’s closest advisers – Adam Werritty – was being <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15302045">paid by private businesses</a> for his time advising Fox.</p><p>Cave said: “Singham is simultaneously advising Liam Fox, and has unrivalled access to many other ministers, while at the same time working for a firm that is paid to influence the decisions of ministers. That’s a glaring conflict of interest.</p><p dir="ltr">“Grayling is employing Singham for his insider knowledge and the fact that he has a seat at the table steering the direction of Brexit. Of course their corporate clients are going to benefit from this hire. That's how the commercial lobbying business operates.</p><p dir="ltr">“That this doesn’t strike the Department of International Trade as a clear conflict of interest is worrying. It is reminiscent of another adviser to Liam Fox that was also funded by an opaque web of private money. The resulting scandal surrounding the then defence secretary's adviser, Adam Werritty, led to Fox’s resignation (in 2011). Is Fox having trouble again seeing the line between adviser and privately-backed lobbyist?”</p><p dir="ltr">Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK said: “Whilst this does not appear to break any formal rules, there are ethical considerations a UK government adviser should take into account on how the privileged information and access they enjoy in a public role may unfairly benefit themselves and potential clients in their private role.”</p><p dir="ltr">Scottish National Party MP Neil Gray said that the revelation reflects flaws with the Brexit process more generally: “There has been an effective sub-contracting of the hard thinking normally undertaken by government to a series of 'thinktanks' who refuse to reveal where their funding comes from and whose proposals seem coincidentally to reflect the narrow interests of a small group of private companies. Singham’s appointment is simply the most obvious example of this government’s fox-in-the-henhouse approach.”</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-center">"There has been an effective sub-contracting of the hard thinking normally undertaken by government to a series of 'thinktanks' who refuse to reveal where their funding comes from and whose proposals seem coincidentally to reflect the narrow interests of a small group of private companies"</p><p dir="ltr">In a statement on the Singham signing last week, <a href="https://www.publicaffairsnews.com/articles/news/grayling-signs-%E2%80%98hard-brexit-svengali%E2%80%99-serve-senior-adviser">Grayling chairman</a> Richard Jukes said: “Brexit and trade are knotty areas, and there is no one better placed than Shanker to help our clients cut through the noise and articulate a considered position that stands up to scrutiny. He is an outstanding addition to Grayling’s award-winning Brexit and trade offer that extends from London to Brussels and across Europe.”</p><p dir="ltr">Singham also leads the trade team at the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA). Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: "The Institute for Economic Affairs has long acted as a paid lobbying agency for the tobacco industry. It's very worrying to see one of their staff playing such a key role in shaping Britain's trade deals as we leave the EU."</p><p dir="ltr">The IEA didn’t respond to a request for comment, and didn’t answer our question about who pays for Singham’s work on trade.</p><p>A spokesperson for the Department of International Trade said:</p><p dir="ltr">“It is only correct that the department engages a variety of stakeholders from across the UK, to discuss opportunities arising from Britain’s departure from the European Union. The department regularly engages think tanks and campaign bodies on all sides of the political spectrum as well as leading thinkers, businesses and civil society groups."</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;“The committee was set up to provide expert advice and challenge to department officials and is not led by ministers. Members are invited to only express their views as individuals and not on behalf of their affiliated organisations.”</p><p dir="ltr">Other than Singham, the trade ministry’s committee of experts comprises prominent Brexit supporting economist Ruth Lea, who is an adviser to the Institute for Economic Affairs; Sunday Telegraph columnist and Brexit supporter Liam Halligan, Xavier Rolet, former CEO of the London Stock Exchange, and the former Tory MP and Brexit supporter Peter Lilley. </p><p>In January, the <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/andrew-lansley-peter-lilley-and-andrew-mitchell-ride-brexit-gravy-train-mgh6c2z28">Sunday Times </a>reported that Lilley was “willing to approach key ministers” on behalf of a fake Chinese company offering him cash in exchange for access to government and information about Brexit. The paper reported that Lilley described how he attended two advisory groups with influence over the Brexit ministers” – one of which was the Department for International Trade advisory committee of experts.</p><p dir="ltr">Lilley said he had not been asked and nor did he agree to have private conversations with any ministers on behalf of the Chinese company. He said any suggestion that a private company would get access to privileged information was “wholly misplaced”, and he remains a member of the committee, according to a department spokesperson.</p><p dir="ltr">When the Sunday Times also reported that “sources within Whitehall and the Conservative Party... told this newspaper that Brexit had triggered a lobbying frenzy as businesses attempted to acquire intelligence about the negotiations.”</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month the Charity Commission ruled that Legatum, Singham’s previous employer, had “<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">crossed the line</a>” and failed to meet its charitable objectives in its pro-Brexit coverage.</p><p><em>Additional reporting by Jenna Corderoy.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">Legatum breached charity regulations with Brexit work, Charity Commission finds</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si">Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK investigations Brexit Institute of Economic Affairs DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Thu, 21 Jun 2018 09:16:50 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 118529 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-jenna-corderoy/revealed-new-evidence-of-hard-brexit-svengali-shanker-si <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Labour’s Liam Byrne says former Legatum trade advisor’s influence over Brexit policymakers ‘beggars belief’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/PA-33122986_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/564977/PA-33122986_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image:&nbsp;</em><span><em>Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment</em></span></p><p dir="ltr">The pace of the British government’s Brexit progress seems to be frustrating even the most enthusiastic supporters of life outside the European Union. At an event in Glasgow last week, Shanker Singham, billed by the organisers as “one of the world’s leading trade lawyers”, complained that the UK’s “lack of clarity” over Brexit was causing “confusion”.</p><p dir="ltr">But what he didn’t talk about was his own role in the middle of this muddle: Singham himself has continued to enjoy unrivalled access to Brexit ministers and officials. The trade advisor, whose work for the Legatum Institute has attracted significant media attention, had repeated private meetings with the highest official in the Department for Exiting the European Union (DexEU) according to new information released to openDemocracy.<br /><br />Singham, a former Washington lobbyist - who has been said to enjoy “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/18/brexit-british-business-leaders-legatum-eu">unparalleled access</a>” to senior government figures - left Legatum earlier this year to head up a new trade unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs. Earlier this month, the charity regulator ruled that Legatum’s Brexit work had ‘crossed the line’ and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">did not meet its charitable objectives</a>. <br /><br />In March and May this year, just after he left Legatum, Singham met with Philip Rycroft, permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union. Both meetings took place at DExEU’s Whitehall offices.<br /><br />Data compiled by openDemocracy also shows that since the Brexit vote in June 2016, Singham has also had dozens of meetings with British government ministers including Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox. The meetings and events were either unminuted or information relating to them was withheld by government departments. Singham also had<a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.eiRa1QN87#.caVnKQ72X"> undeclared meetings with Brexit ministers</a>.<br /><br />Former Labour minister Liam Byrne called for more transparency from government over Singham’s contact with ministers and senior officials.<br /><br />“It beggars belief that ministers and officials are spending hour after hour with Hard Brexit svengali, Shanker Singham. He may have ditched his Legatum badge but I suspect his views are as hard line as ever, and as bad for Britain as ever,” the MP said.<br /><span class="mag-quote-center">“I hope we can meet frequently and monthly is a good objective”&nbsp;</span><br />Singham has also had extensive contact with Brexit trade minister Greg Hands. The pair met at least half a dozen times in the space of a few months at the end of last year. “I hope we can meet frequently and monthly is a good objective,” Hands wrote to Singham in October, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-legatum-s-extraordinary-secretive-monthly-meetings-with-brexit">according to emails obtained by openDemocracy</a>.<br /><br />In December alone Singham had two meetings with Hands, two meetings with Rycroft from DExEU, and a meeting with Michael Gove and Antonia Romeo, a senior civil servant at Fox’s Department for International Trade.<br /><br />Singham told openDemocracy that “you can find information about my meetings in the transparency register.”<br /><br />Singham is also very close to Brexit minister Steve Baker. An investigation by Buzzfeed found that <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/steve-baker-brexit-meetings-shanker-singham?utm_term=.eiRa1QN87#.caVnKQ72X">Singham had multiple undeclared meetings with Baker</a>, and former Legatum trade advisor Crawford Falconer, who now works at the Department of International Trade. These meetings were not recorded in official government transparency records.</p><p dir="ltr">Documents released following Freedom of Information requests from openDemocracy show Singham had a one-on-one meeting with Philip Rycroft on March 13, just days after it was announced that he would be <a href="https://www.li.com/media/press-releases/shanker-singham-to-leave-the-legatum-institute-for-new-role-at-the-iea">leaving the Legatum Institute</a> to take over the trade unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs. On May 10, Singham met with Rycroft and Eoin Parker, director of market access and budget at DExEU.</p><h2>Unlikely Brexit trade influencer</h2><p>Singham, who argues that Britain needs to leave the single market and customs union to maximise opportunities outside the EU, has emerged as an unlikely trade voice for Brexiters. His name has been <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">cited in Parliament</a> and his trade papers held up as evidence that Britain should leave the customs union and single market.</p><p>The recent proposal that the UK could create a ten-mile wide <a href="https://iea.org.uk/media/border-buffer-zone-could-be-solution-to-irish-border-problem/">‘buffer zone’</a> along the Irish border originated from a paper published by Singham and the Legatum Institute.</p><p>Earlier this month, the Charity Commission ruled that Legatum’s work on Brexit “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">failed to meet the required standards of balance and neutrality</a>”. A Legatum reported entitled, Brexit Inflection Point, did not present “balanced, neutral evidence and analysis” and was “not consistent” with the charity’s objectives to promote education, the regulator found.</p><p>Former Charity Commission board member <a href="https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/voices/andrew-purkis-why-the-charity-commission-s-decision-on-legatum-raises-further-questions.html">Andrew Purkis </a>has said that the regulator’s ruling on Legatum also raised questions about the Singham’s new employers, the Institute of Economic Affairs. The IEA, which also has charitable status, also recently appointed <a href="https://order-order.com/people/darren-grimes/">Vote Leave donor</a> Jon Moynihan to its board.</p><p>The IEA has also hired Darren Grimes as its digital manager. Grimes, who had worked for Brexit Central, is subject of an Electoral Commission investigation in relation to a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">£675,000 donation</a> from Vote Leave during the Brexit referendum. A judicial review into the Electoral Commission’s handling of Vote Leave spending is due to be heard on June 19.</p><p>The Legatum Institute announced that it would be <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/09151308-23b9-11e8-ae48-60d3531b7d11">ending</a> its Brexit work following public scrutiny of the think tank’s work and its funding. Christopher Chandler, Legatum’s main funder, has been the subject of <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/143bb08e-4d5d-11e8-97e4-13afc22d86d4">extensive coverage </a>with MPs alleging that the billionaire had links to Russian interests. Chandler, a former major shareholder in Gazprom, has strenuously denied all allegations.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-breached-charity-regulations-with-brexit-work-charity-commission-finds">Legatum breached charity regulations with Brexit work, Charity Commission finds</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan/revealed-legatum-s-extraordinary-secretive-monthly-meetings-with-brexit">Revealed: Legatum’s “extraordinary” secretive monthly meetings with Brexit minister</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Institute of Economic Affairs Brexit investigations DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Jenna Corderoy Peter Geoghegan Thu, 14 Jun 2018 07:00:17 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Jenna Corderoy 118382 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What we learned about Arron Banks at the fake news inquiry https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/what-we-learned-about-arron-banks-at-fake-news-inquiry <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>And what we didn’t</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 13.54.14.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 13.54.14.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks at the Fake News Inquiry. Image, Parliament.tv, fair use</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">In many ways, Arron Banks’s appearance today to answer MPs’ questions was in keeping with character. By turns the biggest donor in British political history was garrulous, boastful and contemptuous. And, after three hours – when he and his wingman Andy Wigmore walked out, ostensibly to keep “a luncheon appointment” with <a href="https://twitter.com/andywigmore/status/1006541298281611264">two DUP MPs</a> – Banks had generated far more heat than light.</p><h2>What we found out </h2><p dir="ltr">The Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s questions covered everything from Leave.EU’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica to Banks’s own dealings with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/10/arron-banks-mps-call-for-police-investigate-russia-links">Russia</a>. But there was one area that Banks seemed particularly keen not to talk about.</p><p dir="ltr">Just before he spent more than £8m on Brexit, his Southern Rock insurance firm was in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">financial trouble</a>, and got a £77m <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373714177/Southern-Rock-Insurance-Company-Ltd-2015-accounts">bail-out</a> from the Isle of Man-based <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373714177/Southern-Rock-Insurance-Company-Ltd-2015-accounts">ICS Risk Solutions</a>. When MP Rebecca Pow asked about this cash injection, Banks implied that this was simply him shuffling money between two companies he owns, and accused them of trying “to create some shadiness around my businesses".</p><p dir="ltr">However, our friends at <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">SourceMaterial</a> have pointed out that Banks doesn’t actually own all of ICS Risk Solutions, but only somewhere between 50% &amp; 75%, according to filings of <a href="https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/06334001/persons-with-significant-control">one of its subsidiaries</a> at Companies House. Who owns the rest of the company? We don’t know. </p><p dir="ltr">But around the time ICS was bailing out Southern Rock, the wife of one of Banks’s associates <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717866/ICS-directors-2015">joined the ICS board</a>. This associate has been accused of breaching money laundering rules in Jersey, Malta and Gibraltar. The following year, the day after the Brexit vote, he joined the ICS board <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/373717784/ICS-directors-2016">himself</a>, along with two of his close business partners. </p><p dir="ltr">However this associate was involved, Banks wasn’t just shuffling around his own money. ICS has at least one unknown owner, who helped prop-up Banks’s ailing insurance empire just as he was pouring cash into Brexit.</p><h2>‘Insurance Millionaire?’ What we missed</h2><p dir="ltr">The key question hanging over the Commons committee today but never directly asked: what is Arron Banks actually worth? &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Figuring out the value of Banks’s wealth is tricky. In media reports the Leave.EU backer is frequently referred to as a <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6500163/arron-banks-net-worth-russia-links-brexit-ukip-nigel-farage/">‘millionaire businessman’</a>. Published estimates of his worth vary from <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/8cddfeea-5c02-11e7-b553-e2df1b0c3220">£100m</a> to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/19/mp-calls-for-inquiry-into-arron-banks-and-dark-money-in-eu-referendum">£250m</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">But a major openDemocracy <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">investigation</a> last year raised serious questions about the true extent of Banks’s wealth, particularly in the insurance businesses that are frequently held up as the main source of his fortune.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks became a major political donor overnight, in November 2014. Previously he had been a virtual unknown – a one-time estate agent who had moved into insurance, and had failed to be selected as a Conservative local election candidate. Then he promised £1m to Ukip apparently after <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/01/tory-donor-arron-banks-increases-ukip-donation-william-hague">William Hague</a> described him as ‘a Mr Nobody’. </p><p dir="ltr">The million pounds to Ukip never fully materialised – Banks drip fed the party around £400,000 in cash installments over six months, mostly in the name of his companies – but the self-styled ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’ was in the game. Then he plunged an eye-watering £8m into campaigning to leave the European Union.</p><p dir="ltr">But at the very moment Banks was pouring millions into Brexit, his insurance companies were in fact in real <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">financial difficulty</a>. Authorities in London and Gibraltar found that Banks’s insurance underwriter, Gibraltar-based Southern Rock, had been trading without sufficient reserves.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has maintained that his insurance business is in rude health. Last October <a href="https://www.insuranceage.co.uk/insurer/3156951/eldon-insurance-set-for-ps250m-float-reports-say">he boasted</a> that he was in line to make millions of pounds from floating Eldon Insurance - which uses the brand Go Skippy – on the London Stock Exchange in early 2018. So far this has not happened.</p><h2>Gold digger</h2><p dir="ltr">Insurance isn’t Banks’s only business interest. In his book, <a href="https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/arron-banks-brexit-diaries">The Bad Boys of Brexit</a> – ghost written by the journalist Isabel Oakeshott – Banks says that in 2015 he decided to spend millions of pounds on influencing British politics because “my businesses in this country and overseas, where I own a number of diamond mines, were doing really well.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Reports over the weekend suggested that Banks had conversations with Russian officials about potential investments in gold mines. (The ‘Bad Boys of Brexit’ is peppered with references from Banks to wanting to invest in gold.) So maybe all the money came from minerals?</p><p dir="ltr">We know that by February 2015, Banks was the owner of four diamond mines in South Africa. But there is little sign that any of these holdings are lucrative. There has been no report of major finds in Banks’s South African mines.</p><p dir="ltr">Not so for Banks’s Lesotho holdings. In September 2017, the Ukip backer announced a “<a href="https://www.economicvoice.com/brexit-businessman-arron-banks-in-major-lesotho-diamond-find/">significant find</a>” in this mountainous Southern African kingdom. Newspaper reports at the time suggested that he was poised to use the windfall to <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nigel-farage-poised-to-form-ukip-splinter-party-v5dvxq7sr">bankroll a new political party</a> for his friend Nigel Farage.</p><p dir="ltr">But another recent openDemocracy investigation <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">cast major doubt on these claims</a>. We found that the area of the “significant find” in Lesotho had produced only a few hundred pounds’ worth of diamonds in the two decades before Banks bought it. A leading expert on Lesotho diamonds told us that it was “geologically impossible” to find commercial quantities of diamonds in the mine.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s not all. When we looked into Banks’s business dealings in Lesotho we found even more surprising things. We found that a political consultancy owned by Banks – Chartwell – had been advising a local political party called the Basotho National Party (BNP) that Banks had business links to.</p><p dir="ltr">Rather than the Lesotho party paying Chartwell for its advice, we discovered that Banks was actually transferring money to the BNP: at least £65,000, a significant sum in one of the poorest and smallest countries in Southern Africa. Chartwell has never recorded a profit. </p><h2>Russia connections</h2><p dir="ltr">Much has been made of Banks’s links to Russia. His wife is Russian. On social media, he often speaks positively of Vladimir Putin and his post-Brexit news site Westmonster often carries coverage that chimes with dominant Russian worldviews.</p><p dir="ltr">Banks has <a href="https://www.neweurope.eu/article/leave-campaign-donor-aaron-banks-denies-new-allegations-russian-collusion/">denied</a> receiving any funding from Russia, accusing the Remain campaign of trying to discredit everyone involved in Brexit. He previously claimed that he’d just had one lunch with the Russian ambassador, but reports this weekend showed that he had at least “two boozy lunches” and another cup of tea.</p><p dir="ltr">But we have found some other links between Banks and Russia. Just two months after the referendum, another Banks associate <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">James Pryor</a>— a Brexit ‘bad boy’ and former campaign manager to Ukip — was in Moscow, a Red Square selfie from his Facebook feed shows. During the hearing, Wigmore said that it was Pryor, “the happy hippy” who had introduced him to Banks. </p><p dir="ltr">Yesterday, Pryor told openDemocracy that his trip wasn’t connected to Banks’ activities: “I have other clients”, he said, and denied any wrongdoing.</p><p dir="ltr">For almost a year, openDemocracy has been looking into where Arron Banks – the biggest political donor in British history – got his money from. This morning, we pointed out that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit">£11m of donations</a> to the two main Brexit campaigns he’s associated with are unaccounted for: we don’t know how it was spent.</p><p dir="ltr">After nearly three hours of watching Banks and Wigmore in front of a parliamentary committee today, we still have more questions than answers about the ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit">Arron Banks and the missing £11m for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/marcus-leroux-leigh-baldwin/brexit-s-offshore-secrets-0">Arron Banks and Brexit’s offshore secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/leigh-baldwin-marcus-leroux/not-everyone-agrees-with-arron-banks-about-value-of-his-dia">Not everyone agrees with Arron Banks about the value of his diamond mines</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit">How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Civil society Democracy and government investigations Brexit Arron Banks DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Peter Geoghegan Tue, 12 Jun 2018 18:17:09 +0000 Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay 118365 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Arron Banks and the missing £11m for Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/arron-banks-and-missing-11m-for-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>His pro-Leave lobby groups raised nearly £12m – but claim they spent less than £1m during the ‘official’ Brexit campaign. So where did the rest go? Andy Wigmore says he has "no idea"</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33531217_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/PA-33531217_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arron Banks. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Nearly £11 million of donations to major Brexit campaign groups funded by Arron Banks has not been accounted for publicly, according to new analysis from openDemocracy.</p><p dir="ltr">British election laws are supposed to provide transparency on how campaign groups spend their money during elections and referendums. However, Grassroots Out and Leave.EU – the two main groups funded primarily by the self-styled ‘bad boy’ of Brexit Arron Banks – have not disclosed what happened to £10.8 million of the money they received.</p><p dir="ltr">In total, the two groups declared that they were given £11.7 million in the first half of 2016 – with Mr Banks the main donor to both, including making loans worth £6m to Leave.EU. Yet referendum rules only required them to disclose how they spent money during the ten weeks between 15th April 2016 until the day of the vote on 23rd June. In that ‘controlled’ period, strict spending limits apply: each group was only legally allowed to spend up to £700,000.</p><p dir="ltr">From 9th March until polling day, Leave.EU received <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=leave.eu&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;isIrishSourceYes=true&amp;isIrishSourceNo=true&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;register=gb&amp;register=ni&amp;register=none&amp;optCols=Register&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=IsIrishSource&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">donations</a> and <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Loans?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=leave.eu&amp;sort=StartDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;isIrishSourceYes=true&amp;isIrishSourceNo=true&amp;register=gb&amp;register=ni&amp;register=none&amp;loanStatus=outstanding&amp;loanStatus=ended&amp;optCols=Register&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=IsIrishSource&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=RateOfInterestDescription&amp;optCols=AmountRepaid&amp;optCols=AmountConverted&amp;optCols=AmountOutstanding&amp;optCols=EndDate&amp;optCols=DateRepaid&amp;optCols=DateEcLastNotified&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsAggregation">loans</a> worth £9.2 million. The group claims that it only <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Spending?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=leave.eu&amp;sort=DateIncurred&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;includeOutsideSection75=true&amp;evt=ukparliament&amp;evt=nationalassemblyforwales&amp;evt=scottishparliament&amp;evt=northernirelandassembly&amp;evt=europeanparliament&amp;evt=referendum&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=ExpenseCategoryName&amp;optCols=FullAddress&amp;optCols=AmountInEngland&amp;optCols=AmountInScotland&amp;optCols=AmountInWales&amp;optCols=AmountInNorthernIreland&amp;optCols=DateOfClaimForPayment&amp;optCols=DatePaid">spent</a> £693,000 of this during the ‘controlled’ campaigning period – although it has since been <a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/leave.eu-fined-for-multiple-breaches-of-electoral-law-following-investigation">fined for multiple breaches of the law by the Electoral Commission</a>, which found that Leave.EU “failed to include at least £77,380 in its spending return, thereby exceeding the spending limit”. The Commission also stated that the “unlawful overspend may have been considerably higher”, and that “it has reasonable grounds to suspect that the responsible person for Leave.EU committed criminal offences". The Commission said it was referring <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/brexit-uk-watchdog-fines-leave-eu-for-breaking-spending-rules/">Leave.EU CEO</a> Elizabeth Bilney to the Metropolitan Police.</p><p dir="ltr">A second campaign group funded by Banks, Grassroots Out, received donations worth<a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Donations?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Grassroots%20Out&amp;sort=AcceptedDate&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;isIrishSourceYes=true&amp;isIrishSourceNo=true&amp;prePoll=false&amp;postPoll=true&amp;register=gb&amp;register=ni&amp;register=none&amp;optCols=Register&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=AccountingUnitsAsCentralParty&amp;optCols=IsSponsorship&amp;optCols=IsIrishSource&amp;optCols=RegulatedDoneeType&amp;optCols=CompanyRegistrationNumber&amp;optCols=Postcode&amp;optCols=NatureOfDonation&amp;optCols=PurposeOfVisit&amp;optCols=DonationAction&amp;optCols=ReportedDate&amp;optCols=IsReportedPrePoll&amp;optCols=ReportingPeriodName&amp;optCols=IsBequest&amp;optCols=IsAggregation"> £2.5 million</a> in the early months of 2016 – most of which was a single ‘in kind’ donation of £1.9 million from an Arron Banks-owned company on 31 March. However, the group claims to have only <a href="http://search.electoralcommission.org.uk/Search/Spending?currentPage=1&amp;rows=10&amp;query=Grassroots%20Out&amp;sort=DateIncurred&amp;order=desc&amp;tab=1&amp;et=pp&amp;et=ppm&amp;et=tp&amp;et=perpar&amp;et=rd&amp;includeOutsideSection75=true&amp;evt=ukparliament&amp;evt=nationalassemblyforwales&amp;evt=scottishparliament&amp;evt=northernirelandassembly&amp;evt=europeanparliament&amp;evt=referendum&amp;optCols=CampaigningName&amp;optCols=ExpenseCategoryName&amp;optCols=FullAddress&amp;optCols=AmountInEngland&amp;optCols=AmountInScotland&amp;optCols=AmountInWales&amp;optCols=AmountInNorthernIreland&amp;optCols=DateOfClaimForPayment&amp;optCols=DatePaid">spent £232,000</a> (which would include using any of &nbsp;the ‘in kind’ donation) between 15 April and the referendum on June 23.</p><p dir="ltr">The gap between the amounts the groups raised and the amount of spending they declared amounts to £10.8 million – more than the Labour Party spent on its 2010 election campaign.</p><p>openDemocracy asked Andy Wigmore, communications director of Leave.EU, how the rest of the £10.8 million was spent and also why a loan of £1m was made by Arron Banks on 21st April even though the spending limits were £700,000. He claimed to have “no idea”. Banks has previously described the Electoral Commission fine and possible criminal <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-leave-eu-fine-electoral-commission-arron-banks-response-second-referendum-vote-a8346776.html">charges as a</a> “politically motivated attack on Brexit and the 17.4 million people who defied the establishment to vote for an independent Britain”.</p><p>Speaking to openDemocracy, the Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: "The idea that you can spend £10 million on swaying a democratic process, but not have to declare what you did with any of it, is deeply worrying. The Electoral Commission should open a new inquiry into whether Leave.EU and Grassroots Out broke any rules, and if not, what new rules are needed to close this loophole in the future".</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/we-need-to-talk-about-arron">We need to talk about where Brexit funder Arron Banks gets his money</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/following-banks-money-who-provided-payment-in-paraphernalia">Following Arron Banks&#039; money: who delivered the payment in paraphernalia?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government investigations Brexit Arron Banks DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Adam Ramsay Tue, 12 Jun 2018 07:58:34 +0000 Adam Ramsay 118357 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Scotland in Union held talks with Cambridge Analytica https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/scotland-in-union-held-talks-with-cambridge-analytica <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The vice-chair of the campaign against Scottish independence met with the controversial data firm months after revelations about their involvement in Trump’s campaign came out.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Nix_1_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cambridge Analytica/SCL's Alexander Nix. Image, Sam Barnes. CC2.0</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">A prominent campaign against Scottish independence, Scotland in Union, had talks with the controversial data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, openDemocracy can reveal.</p><p dir="ltr">William Ramsay, deputy chair of Scotland in Union, boasted to diners at an exclusive fundraising dinner in London last year that the pro-union group had been in talks with Cambridge Analytica. </p><p dir="ltr">Ramsay also said that Cambridge Analytica had told him about the Scottish National Party’s “army of supporters” and “sophisticated database” and joked about hacking SNP data.</p><p dir="ltr">Ramsay made the comments last November during a Scotland in Union fundraising dinner in the Caledonian club in London’s upmarket Belgravia. The £150 a head event was attended by a number of key Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat figures, including former Scottish deputy first minister Jim Wallace, Labour peer George Foulkes, and Jacob Rees Mogg’s wife, Helena. </p><p dir="ltr">During a speech after the dinner, Ramsay said: "The SNP have an army of supporters, and a sophisticated database - I know that from speaking to Cambridge Analytica the other day, who are not working for them, thank goodness.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica has been accused of illegally accessing data of 87m Facebook accounts during president Trump’s election campaign and of engaging in ‘dirty tricks’ in elections around the world. </p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to an undercover openDemocracy reporter after his speech at the Scotland in Union fundraising dinner, Ramsay confirmed that Scotland in Union was in talks with the group, but was unsure whether they would be able to afford to employ the firm. However, he later said in a phone call that his organisation had decided not to use Cambridge Analytica because of the controversy around the firm’s use of data in both the US and the UK.</p><p dir="ltr">At the time of SiU’s announcement, the firm was best known for running Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, for which it has been accused of stirring racism and Islamophobia.</p><p dir="ltr">But Ramsay said that Scotland in Union was interested in data analytics and even joked about hiring “a hacker to get into the SNP’s data.”</p><p dir="ltr">Cambridge Analytica has dominated headlines in Scotland in recent weeks. Last week Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted the SNP had met the company in 2016 but decided not to use them. In <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-43822311">a testy debate</a> in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson accused the SNP leader of looking “pretty shifty” in her party’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica. </p><p dir="ltr">Davidson has lent her support to Scotland in Union, and was one of dozens of MSPs that <a href="https://www.scotlandinunion.co.uk/manifesto_pledges">signed the pro-union groups ‘charter’</a> ahead of the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. </p><p dir="ltr">Shortly after the London dinner, Scotland in Union was plunged into <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pro-union-donors-named-in-data-leak-xbc2sh25h">crisis</a>, as someone <a href="http://www.thenational.scot/news/15811372.Scotland_in_Union_face_questions_as_we_reveal_foreign_billionaire_s_donation/">leaked</a> their whole database to a group of pro-independence news outlets, revealing among other things that they had received £15,000 from a foreign national. </p><p dir="ltr">As a result of the leak, the organisation was investigated by the <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15920822.Unionist_campaign_accused_of_trying_to__intimidate__watchdog/">Electoral Commission</a> for a potential breach of election law – though it claimed the money wasn’t included in the £100,000 they have spent on Scottish elections in recent years.</p><p dir="ltr">It is understood that Scotland in Union’s Will Ramsay was introduced to a representative from Cambridge Analytica at a business mentoring event in London but the pro-union outfit says it rebuffed later requests for a meeting with chief executive Pamela Nash because of concerns about Cambridge Analytica and their work.</p><p dir="ltr">“We have never worked with Cambridge Analytica or any other organisation of its kind,” a spokesperson for Scotland in Union said. </p><p dir="ltr">An SNP spokesperson said that the revelations about Scotland in Union having talks with Cambridge Analytica were “serious”, adding,</p><p dir="ltr">“CA have also spoken about meetings they have had in Scotland. These weren’t with the SNP, so who were they meeting and did anyone hire them? Pro-Brexit campaigners in Scotland need to say whether they were involved, as this comes on top of the murky donations funnelled to the Leave campaign through the DUP by the Scottish Tory-lined Constitutional Research Council.”</p><p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives said: “The Scottish Conservatives have never had any contact with Cambridge Analytica, and don’t work with Scotland in Union.”</p><p dir="ltr">Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said:</p><p dir="ltr">"The hypocrisy here is really quite galling. The same politicians who have spent a week attacking another party for meeting Cambridge Analytica before deciding not to work with them are themselves closely associated with another organisation which has done exactly the same thing. </p><p dir="ltr">“Given the strong links between Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians and Scotland in Union, I am sure they will now make the same demands of 'disclosure' from SiU that they have of others. And I'm sure we'd all appreciate some clarity from Labour and the Conservatives as to their links while they're at it, given that they are the only parties who have failed to clarify whether or not they have ever used Cambridge Analytica's services."</p><p dir="ltr">At a separate press conference in London yesterday, Cambridge Analytica spokesperson Clarence Mitchell said that “the SNP were very keen to work with Cambridge Analytica” but the Brexit referendum got in the way.</p><p dir="ltr">“There were a series of contacts,” Mitchell said. “The SNP were happy to have those discussions.”</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/cambridge-analytica-is-what-happens-when-you-privatise-military-propaganda">Cambridge Analytica is what happens when you privatise military propaganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nathan-oxle/cambridge-analytica-hacked-our-social-lives-to-win-elections-but-more-is-at-stake-than-v">Cambridge Analytica hacked our social lives to win elections - but more is at stake than votes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/marcus-gilroy-ware/cambridge-analytica-outrage-is-real-story">Cambridge Analytica: the outrage is the real story</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Scotland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Scotland UK Cambridge Analytica investigations Brexit DUP Dark Money Brexit Inc. Peter Geoghegan Adam Ramsay Tue, 24 Apr 2018 17:30:15 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan 117470 at https://www.opendemocracy.net