The Cambridge Analytica saga in North Carolina stinks. Thom Tillis’ campaign says that they paid $100,000 win bonus to the British company. The company apparently had non-citizens embedded at the North Carolina Republican Party directing campaign strategy. The win bonus is not really believable and the embed is probably illegal.

I’ve worked on a whole lot of campaigns and I’ve seen win bonuses, but I’ve never seen a $100,000 win bonus for $30,000 work. That’s how much Tillis and his campaign paid the firm before the November election. They paid the $100,000 in installments in 2015. That’s not really believable. There’s more to the story than just a win bonus.

Dallas Woodhouse, Executive Director of the North Carolina Republican Party, denies that any foreign nationals worked out of GOP headquarters in 2014. A spokesman for Tillis slammed the press saying that no foreign workers were on his campaign at all and called NBC reporting on the matter “embarrassingly sloppy and factually false” because the workers supposedly worked out of the GOP office in Raleigh, not his campaign office in Cornelius. You could forgive NBC for confusing the two since the difference between the Tillis campaign and the NC GOP in 2014 was mainly semantics. The law allows coordination of state parties and campaigns and both took full advantage of that relationship in the most contested and expensive US Senate race of the cycle.

You could also forgive news outlets for thinking British citizens were working on the campaign since, in 2015, Cambridge Analytica employees were bragging about being on the ground during the race. As one said about his experience at the NC GOP, “I was English enough to be an entertaining curiosity.” Somebody’s not telling the truth here.

There’s been a lot of debate about whether or not Cambridge Analytica is as good as they claim to be. Maybe they’re just a bunch of bluster like so many political consulting firms who take more credit for victories than they actually deserve. Still, they aren’t supposed to have foreign workers on domestic political campaigns and, if they’re really getting $100,000 win bonuses, then the campaigns are giving them plenty of credit for their work.

Regardless all of it smells. The data firm takes negative campaigning to a new level. They play on people’s prejudices and fears to motivate them to vote against a candidate or to sit out elections altogether. There’s nothing illegal about that. It’s just another blow to any sort of civil debate. If they’re putting foreign workers in domestic campaigns, though, that’s a different story and might violate campaign laws. As for that $100,000 win bonus, somebody needs to dig deeper into that.

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