This briefing contains Trump/Russia/Brexit headlines for you to go an seek out (that’s how we fight fake news, by finding out for ourselves) and a bitesize recap to help you catch up with the complex long reads of the #snowman investigation into the links between Russia, Trump, the far right, and Brexit.
Go and Search
“We need to return to dialogue with North Korea and stop scaring it and find ways to resolve these problems peacefully.” says Putin.
In a declassified report released this year, US spy agencies described destabilisation as one of the Vladimir Putin’s objectives.
Donald Trump allegedly revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minster.
Middle East allies at physical and political risk from Trump leak.
British inflation hit its highest level since September 2013.
Britain’s new aircraft carriers can’t defend themselves against Russia’s latest hypersonic antiship missile.
Russian spy plane will be given free rein to fly over the UK.
On the 21st of April 2017 the Electoral Commission (EC), the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK, released a statement confirming they had “begun an investigation into Leave.EU’s EU Referendum spending return.”
Leave.EU is a limited company created by UKIP donor Arron Banks, who is currently listed as the main shareholder with Companies House, to campaign for Britain’s exit from the European Union in the 2016 referendum.
The Commission’s press release stated their decision “followed an assessment which concluded that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that potential offences under the law may have occurred. The investigation is focused on whether one or more donations – including of services – accepted by Leave.EU was impermissible; and whether Leave.EU’s spending return was complete.”
On clarifying the release with the press office, a spokesperson said “we don’t comment on ongoing investigations,” but they were happy to explain that “a service would be a donation in kind.”
On the Commission’s publication confirming the commencement of an investigation, Mr Banks made his own statement. “Today’s announcement is politically motivated and the timing is intended to cause maximum damage just before the general election. We will not be cooperating any further with the commission and we will see them in court.”
The Electoral Commission spokesperson said there is “no comment to be made on the response of Mr Banks.”
Documents exclusively seen show a significant level of detail in the allegations made to the Electoral Commission, specifically relating to the donation of services by Cambridge Analytica.
The documents point out that “the market rate for a donation of this kind could amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds, based on the previous experience of referendum campaigns and political parties for such analytical tools. Yet Leave.eu have not declared this donation-in-kind at any point in their returns to the Electoral Commission.”
The Commission guidelines specifically define a donation as money, goods, or services which is given towards campaign spending without charge or on non-commercial terms and has a value of over £500.
The documents state “neither Cambridge Analytica, as a US company, nor Robert Mercer, as a US citizen, fit the Electoral Commission’s list of permissible donors…there is no record that this donation was returned within 30 days as required”.
Robert Mercer, an American Billionaire and Trump campaign donor is reportedly linked to the psychographics company.
In their ‘expert paper on splitting campaign spending’, the Electoral Commission sets out the circumstances in which the costs of services might need to be divided, which includes items used before or during the regulated period of a referendum. They highlight that campaign groups must make an honest, factual assessment of the proportion of costs to be attributed to their overall expenditure.
The documents specify the identification of this as a serious concern.
The document states that Leave.EU only became a permitted participant in the referendum on the 15th of February 2016, and so would not have legally been allowed to hold and use the full electoral register for referendum purposes prior to that date.
The documents also refer to US election consultants Goddard Gunster being employed by Leave.EU and states “this service has not been included in their returns as an item of split spending.” Again, the Leave.EU ‘the science behind out strategy’ page is cited.
The regulated referendum period began on the 15th of April 2016 and the limits on expenditure came into force for the designated official campaigns – the lead campaigns were given higher spending limits of £7 million. The document makes a number of assessments of potential over-spending by the official Vote Leave campaign but there is no current indication of an investigation by the Electoral Commission.