Cambridge Analytica, Nigel Farage and Arron Banks Part Two
Ok, this is a companion piece to the previous post. I split them up as they are extremely detailed and want you to be able to absorb the information. If you would prefer an audio version of these blogs check out my website.
Anyway lets crack on with the background to Arron Banks and Leave.EU
Arron Banks and Leave.EU
Arron Banks was the founder and main financier for Leave.EU, the campaign led by Nigel Farage.
Born in Durban South Africa but educated at Crookham Court in the UK. His father worked in the sugar industry and at the end of each term at boarding school he would be transported to a new destination, wherever his father's business took them. Banks described this as being like an army brat.
In 1989, some years after Banks left Crookham Court, a BBC documentary exposed the owner of the school, Philip Cadman, as a paedophile, and the school shut down. Several other former teachers have since been imprisoned for abusing boys.
Banks only recalled happy memories from his time at the establishment and in 2013, he posted angry messages on a Facebook page for former pupils, decrying the "victim culture" of the people sharing their stories, and accusing one student of "crying over spilt milk." In the same exchange, he said, "I abhor homosexuality and abuse of any kind," before clarifying his position: "Re homosexuality—I'm just old fashioned and don't like it sorry."
Banks later acted as a character witness for Cadman at his subsequesnt trial, in 1990, defending his choice to stick up for a paedophile by saying, "It shows my independent streak. He was a decorated war hero. I was asked to say what did I think. I can only say what I thought, which was: I saw nothing." Cadman was found guilty, and spent several years in prison.
Ian Mucklejohn, who taught Banks English at Crookham Court, and has since written a book, "Had," about the abuse scandal, remembered Banks and stated that it was obvious from Banks's school essays that his political outlook was "really quite reactionary—very fixed, and firm." Mucklejohn suggested that Banks's lack of sympathy toward victims was a sign of emotional damage. Even students who hadn't been molested, Mucklejohn writes in his book, had been "brutalised by a regime in which physical abuse and absence of human feeling became the norm."
Some journalists have noted that Banks pronounces "Kenya" with a long "e" to sound like "Keeenya". This is a rather old fashioned pronunciation that is favoured by White Kenyans and was more customary before the country gained its independence. Banks has denied being a racist but admits to being a "tribalist" whatever that means.
In 1987 Banks tried unsuccessfully to run as a Conservative MP in Basingstoke. Banks tactics were deceitful, manipulative and designed to have maximum impact. In 1985 there had been rioting, due to racial tension, in Tottenham and a white policeman was killed during one such incident. Banks produced a series of leaflets that falsely proclaimed his rival, Bernie Grant, who just so happened to be black, had said the police got a "good hiding" during the riots.
Banks's main business seems to be insurance but he is a tricky character to pin down many of his firms are based in such "secrecy jurisdictions" as Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, and Bermuda which to be fair is not uncommon for insurance firms but does raise questions about approaching EU regulations for offshore banking. Could it be that Banks wishes to avoid this?
Banks has also invested in diamond mines, an iodine factory, a political consultancy, a wealth-management firm, an investigations-and-security firm, and a country-house resort, in the west of England, that is managed by his father.
In 2014 Banks received in excess of £22 million for the sales of shares in his insurance firm Brightside.
Banks is also a major shareholder in the Insurance underwriter Southern Rock, which is based in Gibraltar. The business seems to be constantly in trouble with Banks and other shareholders pouring millions into the entity, often by selling their own assets to save the company. Some have noted that this is often an indication of money laundering.
As the New Yorker reports:
"Recently, I spoke to Tom Keatinge, a former banker at J. P. Morgan who now works as a money-laundering expert at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank. Keatinge told me that, even when looking only at publicly available information about Banks's businesses, "red flags do pop out all over the place." The arrangement to refinance Southern Rock forms part of a pattern of investments and bailouts that seems to make little financial sense. "There appears, from an outside perspective, to be an attempt, at several points, to conjure value from thin air," he said."
Banks is no stranger to political donations, having given millions over the years to either UKIP or Leave.EU. Banks reportedly provided over £8million in funding to the Leave.EU campaign alone, although the UK's National Crime Agency has questioned whether he was the true source of all that cash, suspecting he may have acted as a proxy for a third party. Banks's contributions are thought to constitute the largest sum ever donated by an individual to a political campaign. The problem was that at the time he was worth £25 million (according to Bloomberg) so £8million would be nearly half the acquired wealth that he owned at that point. Banks simply claims he has secret investments and channels of cash that people are unaware of.
The mainstream media is quick to highlight connections to Russia, suggesting that Russia alone interfered with the USA election to help Trump. In my humble opinion this is a smoke screen to hide the true culprit in election meddling, elements of the UK and USA governments, think tanks and intelligence agencies. Banks was, however, offered a mysteriously lucrative offer to take a share of a Russian gold mine during the referendum. Many have scrutinised this as anything from odd to proof of Russian collusion. It certainly is strange. Banks ultimately declined their offer to invest. However, he did lie about the extent of their meetings which again raises suspicions. Banks had always claimed that his meetings with the firm amounted to a single boozy lunch but documents obtained by The Sunday Times revealed that he had held multiple meetings with Russian officials and even flown out to Moscow in February 2016 to meet key financiers and partners behind the gold mine project.
In an article in the New Yorker Magazine this statement was made:
"According to Andrew Weiss, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment, Russian officials believed that the West had been pursuing a "regime-change agenda" around the world, particularly in Ukraine in 2014, and worried that Putin's regime might be targeted next. "Russia felt they needed to push back hard," Weiss told me. "They wanted to promote cleavages in the West, and that's where their promotion of populist and nationalist groups and—I think—their support of Brexit fits in."
This was the 2014 regime change in the Ukraine engineered by SCL as reported in this blog series, so there is an element of truth to this statement.
The article later includes this snippet:
"The government of the U.K. has been strikingly muted in its response to the evidence of contacts between Banks and Russian diplomats. According to various reports, in the early months of 2016, while Theresa May was Home Secretary, she refused a request by British intelligence services to investigate Banks's conduct."
To me this is more indicative of an internal cover-up by the UK government to stop any investigation more than anything else. Remember how they botched the search warrant for the offices of Cambridge Analytica. Also recall that Cambridge Analytica is a weapon of the UK government under export control.
Banks first made an impression on the UK political scene in 2014 following a huge donation of cash to Nigel Farage and the UKip Party. Prior to this Bank's had dabbled in donations to the Conservative Party ultimately totalling around £200,000 – nothing to be sniffed at.
Banks recalls in his memoirs "The Bad Boys of Brexit" that Farage had initially asked him for £100,000 for UKip, reasoning that it would cause a stir if a previous donor to the Tory's jumped ship for another more favourable entity.
When the donation was announced, William Hague, the former leader of the Conservative Party attempted to downplay the significance of such a move by insisting that he had no idea who this Arron Banks fellow was. This obviously touched a nerve somewhere in Banks, who immediately increased his donation to the far more impressive £1 million. "Hague called me a nobody," Banks was reported to have said. "Now he knows who I am."
In July 2015 Banks with property entrepreneur Richard Tice and early financial backing from Jim Mellon set up Leave.EU. He included his friend and Belizean diplomat Andy Wigmore. UKIP leader Nigel Farage gave a public endorsement at the party's annual conference in Doncaster.
Andy Wigmore once had the pleasure of representing Belize in the sport of clay pigeon shooting at an Olympic level, although he was born and raised in Chipping Norton. He mainly worked in the communications industry untl he was appointed the Director of Communications for Leave.EU.
One would have thought that a career in communications might have given him an advantage when he was pressed on the tactics of Cambridge Analytica by academic Emma Briant. Instead he defended Cambridge Analytica by comparing them to the propaganda machine of the Nazi regime.
Wigmore told Briant that "The propaganda machine of the Nazis, for instance - if you take away all the hideous horror and that kind of stuff - it was very clever, the way they managed to do what they did. In its pure marketing sense, you can see the logic of what they were saying, why they were saying it, and how they presented things, and the imagery. And that is propaganda. ISIS interestingly... And you know this, course you do. In hindsight, having been on the sharp end of this campaign, you think: Crikey, this is not new, and it's just — it's using the tools that you have at the time."
Rather than facing rebuke from his colleagues, bizarrely his comments were echoed by the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica's parent company SCL Group, Nigel Oakes.
Oakes said that Hitler "didn't have a problem with the Jews at all, but the people didn't like the Jews … So he just leveraged an artificial enemy".
He added: "Well that's exactly what Trump did. He leveraged a Muslim ... I mean, you know, it's ... it was a real enemy. Isis is a real, but how big a threat is Isis really to America?"
The Leave.EU campaign
Wigmore, who was photographed meeting Trump with Farage shortly after his victory, said the Brexit campaign had "completely, completely, completely" copied the methods used by Trump in his own campaign.
"The only way we were going to make a noise was to follow the Trump doctrine, which was: the more outrageous we are, the more attention we'll get, and the more attention we get, the more outrageous we'll be.And that's exactly what we did."
It isn't that they copied, they were essentially different parts of the same campaign.
The recordings were released on Tuesday by the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which is running an inquiry into fake news.
Parliament's Culture committee chairman Damian Collins reacted with appropriate disgust adding:
"Andy Wigmore states that he believes that the propaganda techniques of the Nazi's were 'very clever'," he said.
"He also confirms that exploiting voters' concerns about immigration was central to their campaign during the Brexit referendum.Given the extreme messaging around immigration that was used during the referendum campaign, these statements will raise concerns that data analytics was used to target voters who were concerned about this issue, and to frighten them with messaging designed to create 'an artificial enemy' for them to act against."
Wigmore had the gall to dismiss the committee's report as "wilful deception and trickery," even going as far as to tell the Daily Mirror that his comments about the Nazis had come up "in a historical context" in reference to the scare tactics used by the Remain campaign. This was despite the fact that the audio and video of the entire exchange exists and clearly shows Wigmore to be lying about this feeble excuse.
When speaking about the style of the campaign that Leave.EU would unleash on the public to convince them of the benefits of leaving the EU, Banks described it as,
"It was taking an American-style media approach. What they said early on was 'facts don't work' and that's it. The remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact. It just doesn't work. You have got to connect with people emotionally. It's the Trump success."
Interestingly, it was shown that rather than the leave campaign copying Trump, Cambridge Analytica used the EU Referendum to gauge what would be acceptable and successful if used as propaganda during the Trump campaign. Steve Bannon saw Brexit as important for stoking the same ideological "culture war" that was used to install Trump into the White House.
A typical Leave.EU post on Facebook warned voters that "IMMIGRATION WITHOUT ASSIMILATION EQUALS INVASION." A post about the dangers of "free movement" within the E.U. was accompanied by a photograph of ticking explosives. Leave .EU's social media was overseen by Banks and he used it to parrot the views of the alt-right media outlets that were also engaged in spreading Cambridge Analytica propaganda.
In September, 2015, Banks hired the American pollster Gerry Gunster as a consultant for Leave.EU. Gunster gave Banks a "eureka" moment when he explained to him the core tenant of the manipulation: referendums are won on emotion, not on facts. Gunster claims that he said facts have to accompany emotions but Banks ignored this. Leave.EU therefore decided to be scant with facts and big on feelings, using sensationalist propaganda and focussing on the unwarranted fear of immigration in an explicit manner that the official campaign could not resort to without being called distasteful and racist.
Within two days of the mass shooting at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida, Leave.EU had tweeted a photograph of ISIS fighters alongside this message: "The free movement of Kalashnikovs in Europe helps terrorists. Vote for greater security on June 23. Vote #Leave." Accompanying text—"Act now before we see an Orlando-style atrocity here before too long"—made the exploitation of the Florida tragedy explicit.
Farage defended this style of advert by saying "Banks created content that was very different in nature to what the establishment Conservative politicians were doing," he said. "It had more humour. It had more edge. Not everything they did was everyone's cup of tea, but hey, that's life. It was a much more populist campaign."
Banks got the staff at his Eldon Insurance company to promote Leave.EU political advertisements to their clients and to members of the public via his call centre network. Banks had appeared before Parliament and denied that Eldon employees had worked simultaneously on the political campaign—but, months later, he was countered by whistle-blowers. One former employee told the Observer, "I made it absolutely clear that I didn't want to work on the political stuff. I wasn't comfortable with it. I didn't want to be complicit in it." Another said, "Some of these images were really horrible. The immigrants and refugee stuff. But there were always these urgent requests coming in. You were told to stop what you were doing and do something for Leave.EU." Eldon was fined £125,000.
In his memoir Banks recalls:
"We played the media like a Stradivarius! If we spent eight million in the referendum, we got thirty-five, forty million in free publicity by outraging liberal commentators. We are going to be blunt, edgy, and controversial, Donald Trump-style. If BBC Producers aren't spluttering organic muesli over their breakfast tables every morning, we won't be doing our job."
A few days before people were to take to the ballot box, Nigel Farage revealed the controversial "Breaking Point" poster, which showed a snaking line of scary, brown skinned men (refugees actually) the implication being that these people were coming to be close to you – and they are brown and foreign!!!!! Sensible people denounced this as a cheap and racist stunt. A few hours later, the MP Jo Cox was murdered by a man who shouted "Britain first!" during the act.
Farage apparently went into a panic and wanted to remove the posters but Banks and Wigmore were far more ruthless. According to Banks he and Wigmore urged him to "hold his nerve." Even after Cox's death, he said, polls indicated that immigration remained "the No. 1 issue, by a runaway margin." Banks told reporters that there was nothing wrong with the image or with its message. "It was a war," he said. "Anything goes."
When Cox was killed, both sides in the referendum battle agreed to a two-day pause in campaigning. But Channel 4 News recently unearthed e-mails from the day after the murder in which Banks instructed Leave.EU's team to "keep pumping" and to "up the Spend" on a pro-Brexit Facebook video. Liz Bilney, Leave.EU's C.E.O., agreed, noting that, with active campaigning halted, the video "could get a lot of take up." Banks replied, "Exactly—press it harder." Which is just really, really tacky.
Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica
As we have seen in previous posts, initially Leave.EU boasted about connections to Cambridge Analytica, later when they found out it was illegal they quietened down. Even later than that, they were fined for the illegal interaction. In his memoir "The Bad Boys of Brexit," Banks flatly states that Leave.EU had "hired Cambridge Analytica." He later insisted that his group had held only "preliminary discussions" with the firm, and never paid it anything
The British Web site Open Democracy has also reported that, as early as October, 2015, Banks asked Steve Bannon, who later became the head of Trump's campaign, for help in exploring possible sources of American funding for Leave.EU. Banks says that this effort never progressed any further.
However as the New Yorker reported:
"Late last year, e-mails leaked to the Observer revealed that Leave.EU had misrepresented to British investigators the extent of its ties to Cambridge Analytica, the now disgraced and insolvent British data firm funded by the American political donor Robert Mercer to microtarget voters…
…the leaked e-mails show that discussions extended into 2016—beyond what Banks had previously admitted. Bannon is copied on some of these e-mails; in one of them, Banks writes that he "would like to get CA on the team, maybe look at the first cut of the data." When news of the e-mails broke, Collins called them evidence of "direct links between the political movements behind Brexit and Trump," and redoubled his campaign to establish a broad-ranging inquiry."
Arron Banks and the Heritage Foundation
In May 2016 Banks was invited to attend an event at the Cato Institute, the Koch brothers financed US think tank. Reportedly Banks advised the Institute that it would be economically painful for the UK to leave the EU but that it was worth it.
On the same trip Banks also did the rounds at the Atlantic Council, American Foreign Policy Council and the Heritage Foundation, along with the US Treasury Department and the Department of State. Nothing suspicious in any of that I am quite sure.
Shortly after the 2016 elections, they were photographed with President-elect Donald Trump outside his apartment in Trump Tower.
The New Yorker magazine revealed:
"When Banks, Wigmore, Farage, and others from the Brexit campaign made their November, 2016, visit to Trump Tower, Bannon was present. Banks told me that, before his party went up to see Trump, Bannon attempted to extract from him a forty-thousand-pound payment. Ostensibly, this request was related to work done by Cambridge Analytica for Leave.EU, but, given the context, it seems almost as if Bannon were charging an admission fee to see the President-elect. (A source close to Bannon called this idea "preposterous.") Banks told me that he refused, saying that Cambridge Analytica hadn't performed any services for Leave.EU. This riled Bannon, but Farage placated him, and the Brexit entourage met with Trump, in his apartment, without money changing hands. Trump, Banks told me, was "thoughtful, pleasant, almost polite, and funny."
I asked Banks what kind of Cambridge Analytica services Bannon had offered in 2015. At the time, the company was touting itself as an expert in microtargeting voters, with access to millions of people's "psychographic" information. This cache of data was later found to have been improperly culled from Facebook.
"They put an offer to me that was sort of contemptible," Banks said. He was asked to give "a million, up front," for voter-targeting suggestions, which would be based on an algorithm derived from the Facebook data. Cambridge Analytica promised that the results would help Leave.EU "raise six or seven million pounds for the campaign." Banks looked at me and said, "We turned it down."
Why? Banks laughed, and the half smile broke into a full one. "Because it was illegal," he said.
Half of that statement is true, it was illegal, that is why they were fined – just simply not nearly enough.
What is even more sinister (but ties directly into what I have been saying in this blog series all along) is that Leave.EU purposefully targeted far right groups and extremist views on social media. Despite denials from Banks, Leave.EU paid for Facebook adverts, specifically targeted at supporters of the National Front, the BNP, Britain First and the EDL.
What is even more alarming is that, again, someone covered up for Arron Banks and Cambridge Analytica.
Andy Wigmore contacted Robin Gibbs, the head of the BBC and persuaded him to drop the story and not reveal the damaging information about the Leave.EU campaign. Robin Gibbs agreed for no reason that is initially clear. Gibbs is now the Head of Communications for Prime Minister Theresa May – the same woman who stopped previous investigations into Arron Banks finances. Arron Banks recounted the incident, claiming: "Robbie Gibb is being quite helpful and says he's trying to hose it down."
Robbie Gibb was questioned about this by Channel 4 News and stated unconvincingly "These allegations are ridiculous and without merit. I remain proud of my contribution to the BBC's impartial coverage of the 2016 EU referendum campaign."
When asked for a response to this story, Leave.EU questioned our methods and journalistic integrity – and also threatened to post one of our journalist's personal phone number on social media.
As their report tells, "Arron Banks repeatedly lied to cover-up his Brexit campaign's effort to attract far-right extremists … Leave EU paid for Facebook adverts targeted at supporters of the National Front, the BNP, Britain First and the EDL … But when the BBC asked for a response to a story they planned to run, Mr Banks sent a barrage of emails in an attempt to get the story dropped". That was the Panorama exposé - that ultimately wasn't.
Channel 4 News report also questions why Theresa May halted investigations into Banks and why the Metropolitan Police had not properly investigated either Vote Leave, Leave.EU or Cambridge Analytica.
In January 2017 Banks launched the Breitbart-inspired far-right website Westmonster, which is sponsored by Banks' insurance company Go Skippy. This essentially acts as yet another node for the alt-media platforms that spread Cambridge Analytica's messages. The website went live on the 19th January 2017 (one day before Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States) Fifty percent of the site is officially owned by Michael Heaver, former press adviser to Nigel Farage and the rest of the site is owned by Better for the Country LTD, the parent company of Leave.EU.
Cambridge Analytica and UKIP
When being questioned by the DCMS in June 2018 Banks revealed that he had paid for work that Cambridge Analytica had done for the political party UKip.
During the hearing, which lasted for three hours before Banks and Wigmore stormed out to go to lunch, Damian Collins asked Banks why he donated to Ukip to pay a bill from Cambridge Analytica. Why did he believe that bill needed to be paid?
Banks: "CA had done some work to Ukip, so I thought they would have to pay. They disagreed."
Collins: "You didn't ask for the money back?"
Banks: "No. Put it this way: we knew they had sent the data to CA, and that they were meant to be doing a scoping exercise, which they had done. I made the donation, but it was Ukip that had to settle the bill."
Wigmore adds: "In context, there had just been a general election where they hadn't done very well. So this was part of the regenesis."
Collins: "This project, this Ukip project, has nothing to do with you, so why did you feel you had to settle the bill?"
Banks: "I chose to make a donation. I donated it to Ukip. Whether they disclosed it or should have disclosed it, I have no visibility."
Banks has also said: "Leave.EU did not receive any data or work from Cambridge Analytica. Ukip did give Cambridge Analytica some of its data and Cambridge Analytica did some analysis of this. But it was not used in the Brexit campaign. Cambridge Analytica tried to make me pay for that work but I refused. It had nothing to do with us."
Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica has repeatedly denied there was any involvement in any campaigns, which is obviously a lie. At one point he told MPs "Let me be absolutely crystal clear about this. I do not know how many ways I can say this. We did not work for Leave.EU. We have not undertaken any paid or unpaid work for them, OK?"
This was contradicted by former Cambridge Analytica employee Brittany Kaiser who stated in the Guardian:
"She admitted Leave.EU did not pay for the work but described how the relationship between them began in the autumn of 2015 when she visited the offices of Leave.EU and Ukip.
She said both organisations offered to share proprietary data with Cambridge Analytica's lead scientist, David Wilkinson.
He requested access to Facebook pages, "subscriber, donation and local group data", email engagement and call centre records. It is not clear what information they had – or what was passed over.
But Kaiser says the most fruitful work was conducted on data stored on a Ukip computer that was carried into Cambridge Analytica's London office.
"Ukip had undertaken a survey on why people wanted to leave the EU or not, and they also had membership data. So we were able to build personas out of that. That was work that would normally be paid for."
Kaiser said she briefed senior Leave.EU officials on the results of the research, but that the campaign never received a final report because it unexpectedly backed out of a contract."
"The proposal was to do what we do for any other campaign in the world, which was to undertake a data audit. We do research for you, we build models, and then we help you execute that database through digital, direct mail, door-knocking, events, whatever."
Kaiser became particularly annoyed at her former employees when it was revealed that Alexander Nix had emailed her and asked her to lie.
As the Guardian reports:
"On 21 April 2017, the Electoral Commission launched its first investigation into Leave.EU, looking specifically at "whether one or more donations – including of services – accepted by Leave.EU was impermissible; and whether Leave.EU's spending return was complete".
Nix sent an email to Kaiser and other executives at 3.37am the following morning, arguing the company had "nothing to worry about" from the Electoral Commission and that the "narrative" should be that "we did not end up working together".
He wrote: "Whilst there is no law against 'lying', I think that we need to establish the narrative that precipitated these two admissions, such that we can mitigate loss of credibility … both the press release and Brittany's comments [at the Leave.EU launch] indicate that CA had already completed work for the campaign."
He went on to express concern that "it might be argued that we contributed to the campaign in the form of 'goodwill'".
"When I first found out that we were going to say that we did zero work on it, I felt betrayed and lied to," said Kaiser. "Because I was continually told I could go along with the narrative that we did work on it."
She added: "I was like: the narrative should be that the work that we did was never paid for so Leave.EU, by not registering that we did that work, are the ones that should be in trouble. Not us for lying for their asses. Literally why should we make excuses for these people? Why? I'm so tired of making excuses for old white men."
Since then Nix has repeatedly maintained that Cambridge Analytica did "no paid or unpaid work" for Leave.EU."
It looks like Bannon, Mercer and Farage were planning this for a lot longer than we thought. This ties in with my previous discoveries about the long term plans of the Heritage Foundation, the IEA and other affiliates. As this intriguing report from Byline Times shows:
"Churchill College, Cambridge, 2013. A December weekend out of term time, and a hundred or so right-wing libertarians are gathered in a lecture hall to hear an American talk with two rising stars of the Young Britons Foundation (YBF) on its 10th anniversary.
Self-described as a 'Conservative Madrasa', the YBF was a youth insurgency movement within the Conservative Party and the right in general. The foundation's dolphin symbol was a play on this badge of ideological purity: the founder, Donal Blaney, would reward young activists, journalists and would-be politicians with a 'Golden Dolphin' award for being 'ultrasound'.
This wasn't, however, a home-grown movement. Low tax and deregulation were old Thatcherite themes, but the group's emphasis on untrammelled 'liberty', relaxing gun control, privatising the NHS (a 60-year "mistake", according to YBF president Daniel Hannan on Fox News) and an odd strand of right-wing evangelical intolerance, betrayed its US origins.
The YBF was an offshoot of the Young Americas Foundation (YAF), based at the Reagan Ranch in California, which relied heavily on funding from US hedge fund billionaire, Robert Mercer.
And 2013 was a particular moment in this particular transatlantic bridge. The sister YAF was flying delegates over to Cambridge for a 2013 Special Relationship Scholarship programme. The relationship between Mercer, Bannon, the Trump campaign and the young ideologues from Britain would very special indeed.
Two years earlier, he had started discussions with Nigel Farage (reportedly introduced to him by the YBF's executive director Matthew Richardson) about starting a British-style populist 'Tea Party' movement to respond to the crisis after the credit crunch. In 2012, Bannon had entered into an alliance with YAF funder Robert Mercer to become executive director of the 'Alt Right' Breitbart publications.
The YBF was just as scandal-prone. It was closed down in 2015 when a young activist, Elliott Johnson, committed suicide claiming he had been bullied by the YBF's director of outreach Mark Clarke, a former Conservative parliamentary candidate. He organised the Roadtrip Battlebus for young volunteers, which itself came under investigation for multiple examples of overspending during the 2015 General Election. Mr Clarke has denied the allegations.
Back in 2013, Matthew Elliott – who was then expanding his opaquely funded Taxpayers' Alliance to other campaigns run from his base at London's 55 Tufton Street – was both a panellist and host at the Churchill College weekend. He had previously convened a 'think tank career development workshop' for the YBF. Elliott would become executive director of Boris Johnson's Vote Leave campaign in 2016.
Meanwhile, Matthew Richardson – then executive director of the YBF and reported to be Robert Mercer's lawyer in the UK – would join Nigel Farage's rival UKIP a few months later, becoming its secretary in the years leading up to the Brexit referendum. He worked closely with Leave.EU and Bannon's Cambridge Analytica to provide membership details for online targeting."
Looking back on 2013, it's obvious that – whatever the personal differences and policy nuances – the leading figures in both the Vote Leave and Leave.EU campaigns had a joint point of interest, and a joint inspiration through the work of Steve Bannon.
Both campaigns used the services of Bannon's Cambridge Analytica to some effect: Leave.EU directly, according to its own words at the time; Vote Leave indirectly through spending most of its campaign budget with AIQ (formerly billed as 'SCL Canada'), which accessed the same databases and was an offshoot of Cambridge Analytica according to the whistleblower Chris Wylie."
"Arron Banks: the man who bought Brexit," NewStatesman, October 13, 2016. Archived November 30, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/9iv4z
Peter Walker and Jim Waterson. "Arron Banks faces criminal inquiry over Brexit campaign," The Guardian, November 1, 2018. Archived November 30, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/z2ywh
"Arron Banks: This unnatural disaster was made in Brussels thanks to EU flooding policies," The Yorkshire Post, January 3, 2016. Archived November 30, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/PH4Ca
Sandra Laville. "Arron Banks: self-styled bad boy and bankroller of Brexit," The Guardian, June 10, 2018. Archived November 30, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/cbEwl
"Ex-Tory donor Arron Banks gives £1m to UKIP," BBC News, October 1, 2014. Archived November 28, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/8oEuU
Kyla Mandel. "Mapped: New Special Relationship for America and Britain Emerges with Climate Science Deniers Linked to Trump and Brexit," DeSmog UK, January 16, 2017.