FEC finds 'reason to believe' Sen. Thom Tillis and John Bolton violated the 'foreign national ban' by working with British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica

FEC found cause to believe that John Bolton and Sen. Tillis violated US laws prohibiting foreigners from voting in US elections.
British firm Cambridge Analytica was heavily involved with strategy for both Republican campaigns.

The statue of limitations has expired, so the commission cannot do anything.

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In 2019, the Federal Election Commission concluded that Sen. Thom Tillis, and John Bolton, former National Security Advisor, had violated federal laws against foreign interference. They were accused of working with British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica in 2014.

The commission found that both the North Carolina Republican Party (and a Republican Party candidate in Oregon) ran afoul the same laws. However, the five-year statute for both cases has expired, and there have not been any criminal referrals.

In a statement of motives, Commissioners Shana Broussard & Ellen Weintraub stated that "once again, the Commission failed to take meaningful enforcement actions on complaints alleging serious violations the foreign national ban." "Despite the Commission's prior commitment to prioritizing foreign-national matters, this commitment seems in retrospect to be a lip service as we continue our violations of our obligations to the American citizens."

They also stated that both former President Donald Trump (Texas) and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), worked with the British firm during 2016 presidential campaigns. However, Caroline Hunter and Matthew Petersen, who were Republican commissioners, did not want to take any action.

The pair wrote that they were only willing to proceed with claims that were already at risk under the statutes of limitations, setting up the Commission for failure. They were referring to claims against Bolton, Tillis, and others.

They continue, "Unfortunately there is no public explanation as to why they wouldn't move forward with the later allegations [against Trump or Cruz]," they say. "Instead, the American people remain in the dark about why the Commission could not gather the four votes necessary to pursue these serious allegations regarding foreign interference in the 2016 elections."

Cambridge Analytica's work on Tillis, Bolton and Cruz for Trump

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook users' personal data was illegally obtained by the company, began in March 2018.

Common Cause, a watchdog organization, filed a lawsuit against Cambridge Analytica. The Campaign Legal Center filed a suit against John Bolton's super PAC. The chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party filed two months later a complaint against Senator Tillis and Republican Party. The case also includes a complaint by the Resistance Committee Action Fund against Trump's campaign.

Each of the complaints alleging violations to the ban on foreign nationals was broadly similar. They allege that foreign nationals, in this instance, British employees at Cambridge Analytica, had "significantly greater" roles in the campaigns and that foreign nationals "participated and in some cases directed the Committees' electoral-related activities," according the statement of reasons.

The Center for Public Integrity published a 2018 report detailing the extent of Bolton’s cooperation with the British company. The Campaign Legal Center also claimed that Bolton's super PAC was involved in illegal coordinated activities with the Tillis campaign, and the North Carolina Republican Party, during the latter's 2014 election.

In July 2019, the FEC voted and found reasons to believe that Tillis and Bolton, North Carolina GOP and even Oregon congressional candidate Art Robinson had violated the ban on foreign nationals. The commission initiated an investigation. The FEC lost a majority of its members in July 2019, putting an end to the commission's ability to work.

Six commissioners make up the FEC. A commission with fewer than four members loses its quorum. Matthew Petersen, the former vice chairman of FEC, resigned in 2019, bringing down the number to three.

Broussard wrote that "Unfortunately, Office of General Counsel's investigation of 2014 activity never gained traction." Weintraub also wrote.

On September 30, 2018, the commission voted to close the file. This apparently ended the matter before FEC. Ann Ravel, an ex-Democratic FEC commissioner, said to Insider that it was unlikely any criminal referrals had been made at the Department of Justice. This would have been noted on the public documents this week.

She stated that it was unlikely they would, if they didn't take action in this case. "Making a referral for the Department of Justice requires four votes."

Insider was not able to reach Tillis, Cruz and the Trump campaign.