Campaigns across the political spectrum have long acquired and used data to motivate potential voters. Facebook has denied giving the Obama campaign special treatment and said he and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney “had access to the same tools.“
This was the second hearing on data privacy in the last five weeks at which Cruz railed against bias in Silicon Valley and avoided mention of his own connection to Cambridge, a firm bankrolled by billionaire GOP donor Robert Mercer. Cruz hired the firm for his 2016 presidential bid, which Mercer supported. After the Texan exited the race, Mercer and the firm switched allegiance to Trump.
Cambridge folded this month amid allegations it improperly acquired data on 87 million Facebook users with the goal of influencing the 2016 election. The firm has denied wrongdoing and said it didn’t use Facebook data in the contest.
The Cruz campaign has maintained it was an honest broker in its dealings with Cambridge. Still, Texas Democrats pounced on the senator, who is up for re-election, for the omission.
“Ted Cruz didn’t utter a word about his deep ties with Cambridge Analytica and how he spent millions to exploit users personal data in a failed attempt to get you to like him. Just like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz has violated the public trust,” Texas Democratic Party’s deputy executive director, Manny Garcia, said in a prepared statement.
The New York Times reported late Tuesday that the FBI and Justice Department are investigating the firm’s actions and financial dealings. Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who revealed Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook data, testified at Wednesday’s hearing. Beforehand, he told reporters that the FBI has contacted him in relation to the probe.
Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said the senator’s campaign has not been contacted by federal authorities.
The Cruz presidential campaign — which boasted about its sophisticated voter-targeting ability — paid Cambridge Analytica $5.8 million between July 2015 and June 2016 for services that included “voter ID targeting” and “voter modeling,” among other services. Cambridge staffers were also embedded with the campaign at its headquarters in Houston.
But campaign officials have said they found the Cambridge data unreliable and turned to other sources that have not been similarly tainted.