Side Note

Cambridge Analytica CEO loves two things: expensive chandeliers and ruining the world

Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix is so cartoonishly rich he allegedly once left a meeting to “pick up a £200,000 chandelier,” whistleblower Christopher Wylie told U.K. parliament during a Tuesday hearing. Nix and others in the company didn’t do it for the money, Wylie said.

In addition to working for the Trump and Leave campaigns in 2016, the firm also meddled in foreign elections, which Wylie said they treated as “projects” to pass the time — you know, like other rich people pastimes, like playing squash or betting on race horses. “These are people that don’t need to make a lot of money, but the thing I learned is that for certain wealthy people, they need something to keep them occupied,” Wylie said. “Going into the developing world and running a country is something that appeals to them.”

Nix was suspended — but not fired — from his position as CEO in late March after a Channel 4 investigation revealed that the company was using honey traps and bribery to entrap politicians. Cambridge Analytica executives said the company worked for Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2013 and 2017 campaigns, in addition to operating in countries like Malaysia and Brazil. In 2017, Cambridge Analytica also partnered with, a Spanish-language app that gave free internet access to people in Mexico and Colombia — both of which have presidential elections this year — in exchange for reading news stories, watching ads, and taking surveys, Bloomberg reported last summer. And last October, BuzzFeed reported that Cambridge Analytica was hiring staffers for Mexico’s upcoming presidential election.

“They are an example of what modern-day colonialism looks like,” Wylie testified. “You have a wealthy company from a developed nation going into an economy or a democracy that’s still struggling to get its feet on the ground and taking advantage of that to profit from that.”