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Years of complaints against Cambridge Analytica reveal how it influenced voters

Complaints filed by U.S. citizens from 2013-2017 detail Cambridge Analytica’s messaging tactics.

The Outline has uncovered a number of previously unpublished harassment complaints filed against Cambridge Analytica and SCL in response to the numerous political survey and messaging calls made on behalf of U.S. campaigns between 2013 and 2017. A significant portion of the complaints filed reference calls received in early-to-mid 2014, the same time period during which Cambridge Analytica provided “campaign strategy and messaging advice” to Republican campaigns in Colorado, Oregon, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Arkansas, according to documents obtained by the Washington Post.

The complaints describe the companies’ data-gathering methods in great detail, which reportedly ranged from loaded political (and personal) surveys, paid focus groups, and sentiment analysis questionnaires. While there were a considerable number of complaints filed with the FCC over SCL’s predatory conduct, most U.S. citizens voiced their concerns online on popular self-reporting sites, such as 800Notes.

Most took issue with the frequency and timing of Cambridge Analytica’s calls — which came at all hours, multiple times a day — and the invasive, often personal, questions the company posed. The firm’s constant harassment and shady tactics left most users suspicious of Cambridge Analytica’s intentions. “What is their political agenda? Who is their client?” one Oregon resident asked after receiving multiple calls inviting them to join a focus group on “race, nsa, abortion, gays.”

Though the use of a third party political consulting firm to conduct polls and surveys is in no way revolutionary, Cambridge Analytica isn’t just any consulting firm. Infamous for siphoning millions of users’ Facebook data and (allegedly) influencing voters around the world, Cambridge Analytica (and its parent company SCL) has been described as a kind of “psyops contractor.” Whistleblower Christopher Wylie alleges that the company exists merely to allow politics-obsessed billionaires, like Robert Mercer or Vincent Tchenguiz, to skirt FEC regulations by passing their money to contractors like SCL, rather than giving directly to campaigns.

The majority of the calls referenced Republican candidates who had enlisted Cambridge Analytica and SCL’s services in 2014. One Colorado resident described the numerous calls they had received from “SCL Elections,” which often took the form of a four question “political survey.” The caller noted that the surveys often mentioned the then-candidate Cory Gardner, who went on to defeat incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall in the 2014 Colorado Senate election later that year:

Political survey. I have gotten several of these calls. They all claim to be four question surveys. The first question was am I a Republican or Democrat. Second was do I vote every election. Third questions was do I always vote party line. Fourth question was how excited am I about the upcoming election. Subsequent calls have been variations on this theme but they usually ask me if I would vote for Cory Gardiner for Governor. I assume these are funded by his committee and if you answer yes you'll be asked for a campaign contribution. Other variations have asked me how conservative I am and how conservative I think Cory Gardiner is. So it may also be a Tancredo poll since he's claiming to be the true conservative candidate.

Cambridge Analytica (which worked alongside SCL Elections) took credit for Gardner’s success in a 2014 post-election report, first published by the Washington Post. The report says that Cambridge Analytica and SCL played a central role in Republican elections in Colorado, Oregon, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Arkansas, and others.

The Cambridge Analytica document lists phone calls as the primary method of voter conversion and mobilization. “Given the limited financial resources available to the team, the GOTV effort consisted mostly of paid calling and attempting to mobilize some volunteers to make persuasion calls,” says the section on Oregon.

According to the report, the phone surveys Cambridge Analytica conducted in Arkansas, North Carolina and New Hampshire for Ambassador John Bolton’s super PAC were highly effective.

“CA-SCL contracted an external firm to conduct a phone survey to test attitudes amongst target populations, which also provided significant evidence of the efficacy of CA-SCL’s messaging,” reads the post-election report. “Relative to an uncontacted control group, respondents in the study who had been targeted with Bolton Super PAC messaging on foreign policy and national security showed a significant increase in their awareness of these subjects.”

The Outline has compiled a number of complaints filed against Cambridge Analytica, SCL Elections, and their subsidiaries from 2013-2017. Here are some of the most relevant comments from FCC documents and a variety of harassment reporting sites that reference receiving calls of a distinctively political nature:

Note: The below comments have not been edited or modified in any way in an attempt to preserve the integrity of their original form, so expect the occasional spelling mistake and/or factual error.

What is their political agenda? Who is their client?
Person called by Cambridge Analytica

Online Complaint Filed March 20 2014

Phone Number: 877-593-3156 (SCL Election Focus Group)

Comments:

8775933156 from sclelections.com, organizing focus groups in 4 Oregon cities, 2 Hour sessions, groups of 20 - 40 to gather personal input (via handheld tablets) on a variety of social issues, race, nsa, abortion, gays. Meeting was recorded with 3 video cameras. participants given refreshments and paid $100 cash afterwards. What is their political agenda? Who is their client?


Online Complaint Filed August 23 2013

Phone Number: 804-269-8830 (SCL International)

Comments:

They are doing surveys about lifestyles of Virginians, or so they told me. Survey takes about 15 minutes. I asked the company, they said SCL International, which I could find nothing about online.


Online Complaint Filed May 24 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

This IS a "legit" (such as it is) political survey. They have been blanketing Oregon for the past three days. They start calling early and often. Called my home at least 15 times since Thursday afternoon (now Saturday morning). Called my office many times, called my wife's office many times, called many friends many times.

I had answered at home and told them I was not interested, but the calls kept coming.

last night, Friday, wife answers and decides to talk with them. Questions such as do you vote your party-line. What percentage of time do you vote your party line. No real questions that would really "reveal" anything personal, except maybe your party affliation, which is part of public record anyway in Oregon.

Wife said she just made up random answers -- mainly, she was just curious to see what it was all about. So, the call last night, Friday was about 7 p.m. and we heard nothing more from them -- until this morning -- yes, they are calling again.

...suspect a con using survey to sneak in questions about personal info among the survey questions.
Person called by Cambridge Analytica

Online Complaint Filed May 27 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

2 apparently robo-calls from them today, 5 hours apart. After last word of my answer-machine message, started getting sounds like old-timey busy signals. Notice notes above saying political survey for Oregon races. Guess they work nationwide -- I'm in Arkansas.


Online Complaint Filed May 28 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

Just got a call from this # and I live in West Virginia. I did not answer and do not answer these phone calls, and has reduced the amount of these phone calls by just not answering them. Annoying? Yes!


FCC Complaint From Corvallis, OR

Company: “SCL Elections”

Comments:

They called 7 times today and in every call we requested that they remove our number from their calling list.They verified on a call that the call originated from: SLC Elections 1211 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10036

I talked with Joyce Jimemez (supervisor) and she said that they would stop calling. Since that time, I have received additional calls. None


Online Complaint Filed June 3 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

Multiple calls per day--no message left. Answered the first of 4 yesterday (6/2/2014) and told "survey" caller that not interested and to remove my number form caller list. Per caller ID, received 3 more thru out afternoon (I did not pick up and they left no message). Since opening line was about survey--suspect a con using survey to sneak in questions about personal info among the survey questions.

They aren’t making any friends like this, nor am I going to be harassed into answering the questions, I don’t think the calls would stop, even then !!
Person called by Cambridge Analytica

Online Complaint Filed May 29 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

I have gotten about 10 calls today and no one is on the line, so I called the number back and was told that SCL Elections was sorry they missed me. I left a message and told them not to robocall again and I was not interested. Now there has been 8 more. So I found the USA office of SCL Elections and located this contact. Do you think he would like his phone and answer machine tied up like mine. If you would like to leave your own complaint, here is the info:

USA Suite 2703, The News Corp. Building, 1211 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036 Tel: +(1)262 617 2716 Email:usa@sclgroup.cc

Mark Block Head of US Sales Mark Block is President & CEO of Block RF & Associates, a political consulting firm specializing in political strategy and grassroots organization, and currently serves as Director of Strategic Marketing & Sales for SCL USA. He has led many campaigns and was instrumental in overseeing a grassroots movement that led to historic conservative victories in Wisconsin. He is most noted for his role as Chief of Staff for the Herman Cain Presidential Campaign, achieving international notoriety as “The Smoking Man.”


Online Complaint Filed May 29 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

I have often got these calls, and don't answer the phone. They are getting more often in the last couple of days, Yesterday I got 3 calls, I finally answered. Live person said it was a political question survey. I said 'I'm sorry, but I don't answer political questions over the phone to people I don't even know', and then I hung up. They have called me twice today, I didn't answer. They aren't making any friends like this, nor am I going to be harassed into answering the questions, I don't think the calls would stop, even then !!


Online Complaint Filed May 30 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

How do we get these numbers to stop calling a phone that is for emergency use for a child with epilepsy


FCC Complaint From Wadesboro, NC

Company: “SCL Elections”

Comment:

Cisco report. Political campaign advisor according to Cisco. Maybe scamming client by making robo calls and collecting payment for each. NO ONE ANSWERS. I suspect THIS IS A SPOOFED Number or else a private cell phone. There have been numerous calls from this number and I just do not pick up any longer. Cannot return a call to this number either. none


Online Complaint Filed May 30 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

I live in North Carolina & received a call from this number asking for my daughter who's in the military. When I asked who was calling, they told me their company name is SCO. The call disconnected in the middle of the girl's explanation when I told her my daughter wasn't here. I did call the number back out of curiosity and got a recorded message.

It says: "We are calling on behalf of SCO Elections to conduct a survey. Sorry we missed you." It then gives the option to leave a message or press for special options.

Knock on wood, I have not had the repetitive, annoying calls like others have so far. Hope this helps some of you.

I would like for the scl elections conduct a survey to remove my phone number from their calling list please
Person called by Cambridge Analytica

FCC Complaint From Lake Charles, CA

Company: “SCL Elections Survey?”

Comment:

When I called the number, I got a message stating that info. After 4 calls in one day (previously 2 the day before in which they hung up after 2 3 rings that I didn't answer), I was tired of the interruption and left them messages to stop calling. I told them we are not interested in doing their survey. I told them I'd take action if they didn't stop calling. I decided to report them to you anyway since I've seen I'm not the only person they are bothering.When I did answer, one of the calls was a real person. They asked for my husband. I asked to take a message, which they declined. I was too bothered to ask the nature of their business and to tell the real person not to call back. Thanks.


Online Complaint Filed June 6 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

I would like for the scl elections conduct a survey to remove my phone number form their calling list please


Online Complaint Filed June 9 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

I called them back heard this recording before a message can be left: This is SCL Elections; sorry we missed your call. Leave us a message. So I my message is : Do Not Call me I have no interest in politics or surveys or your surveys. Again, Do Not Call me


Online Complaint Filed June 9 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

Hello everyone that has received a call from this number. 877-318-7054. I just received a call from an out of area number. I talk to Heather and Raul. Neither would give their company name but I told them that I've left a message with SCL Elections marketing manager, which I did. Call this number (1)262 617 2716 and leave a message and complain about the survey company that they have hired and are making unwanted calls. Show them how it feels.


FCC Complaint From Portland, OR

Complainant Information: Landy Bennett Blumstein LLP

Company: SCL Elections

Comment:

Survey Called the number back, this was the automated message. Also googled the number.


The same lady asks if I like the great job Obama is doing. I then hang up.
Person called by Cambridge Analytica

Online Complaint Filed June 9 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

Get calls from this number 10 to 15 times a day. A lady asks for my mom who is 87 years old. I tell not to call. Then the same lady asks if I like the great job Obama is doing. I then hang up.


Online Complaint Filed June 12 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

http://sclelections.com/ A BRITISH COMPANY WHO IS RESPONSABLE FOR THIS HARRASMENT website has all there phone numbers and e mail addresses


Online Complaint Filed June 13 2014

Phone Number: 877-318-7054 (SCL Elections)

Comments:

These calls are from SCL Elections. They are all over the world. They do press media and public relations. They need to be shut down. They are from the UK.

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