Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) paid $20,000 to obtain voter data from Cambridge Analytica, the same controversial firm used by the Trump campaign.
Cambridge Analytica is under intense scrutiny for alleged shady business practices. “Authorities in Britain and the United States are investigating whether Cambridge Analytica may have used data improperly obtained from Facebook to try to influence elections, including the 2016 White House race,” according to the AP.
According to reports, Cambridge Analytica “used the personal information of millions of users who never gave their permission to help campaigns more effectively target voters.” A whistleblower from the compnay expressed worry that the data was given to Russian operatives eager to interfere with the 2016 election.
The Walters campaign paid Cambridge through a campaign vendor, Connell Donatelli Inc., for the express purpose of “voter data for media ads,” according to the L.A. Times.
Since reports of unethical activity surfaced, Congress is demanding hearings into both Cambridge and Facebook. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is particularly worried about “extensive micro-targeting based on ill-gotten user data.”
Walters is one of California’s most vulnerable Republicans. Voters in her district preferred Hillary Clinton in 2016, but that has not stopped Walters from voting in lockstep with Trump. Her votes seeking to end protections for pre-existing conditions in health care, as well as for a tax bill that raises taxes on Californians, have put her at odds with her constituents.
Despite the controversy, campaign finance records show Walters continues to use Connell Donatelli, paying them more than $28,000 in 2017, although her campaign insists they will stop using Cambridge Analytica data.
Walters is the only member of Congress known to use Cambridge Analytica. Since Walters is such a big supporter of the Trump agenda, it was inevitable that she would eventually be caught up in one of his scandals.