Blunt dismisses notion Cambridge Analytica could be problem for him in Senate probe

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) speaks as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) looks on during a news conference on proposed Republican tax legislation on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) speaks as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) looks on during a news conference on proposed Republican tax legislation on Capitol Hill. NYT

Sen. Roy Blunt on Tuesday dismissed the possibility that his campaign's use of Cambridge Analytica could present a complication for him as lawmakers on Capitol Hill look into allegations that the firm illicitly acquired information from 50 million Facebook users.

“I don’t know who they are, I don’t know what they did,” the Missouri Republican told McClatchy in an interview. “That’s not a decision I was involved in.”

Blunt's campaign committee, Friends of Roy Blunt, paid $12,000 to Cambridge Analytica in 2015 for data services as the Missouri Republican geared up for what turned out to be a hard-fought re-election battle against Democrat Jason Kander.

Now Blunt, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, could wind up sitting in hearings and briefings examining how Cambridge Analytica obtained and used Facebook users' information in the 2016 presidential election. Cambridge Analytica also worked for the Donald Trump campaign, earning more than $5.9 million in 2016 according to Federal Election Commission filings, and for the “Brexit” campaign in the United Kingdom.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate's intelligence committee, has said he wants officials with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook to testify before that panel.

Facebook officials were on Capitol Hill Tuesday and planned to return Wednesday, providing staff level briefings for several committees, including the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Blunt once served as Missouri's Secretary of State, the state's top elections official. He said Tuesday that he didn't think it would complicate anything for him on the Intelligence Committee if Cambridge Analytica officials came before that panel.

He said he was unfamiliar with the firm and didn't know that his campaign had engaged the company or what it used them to do.

Burson Snyder, a spokeswoman for Friends of Roy Blunt, said the senator's campaign committee "briefly engaged Cambridge during the 2016 cycle for the purposes of a pilot project testing their capabilities vs the methodology we were already using."

She added, "We found our own ongoing efforts to be sufficient, so once the pilot project concluded we did not continue the relationship."

Other members of Congress spent far more than Blunt on Cambridge Analytica.

McClatchy reported Tuesday that North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis and the state’s Republican Party paid $345,000 to the data company that is now under scrutiny.

Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the NC Democratic Party questions Cambridge Analytica’s work for US Sen. Thom Tillis and the NC Republican Party. Goodwin spoke out at a press conference in Raleigh, Tuesday, March 20, 2018.

Brian Murphy of McClatchy’s Washington Bureau contributed

Lindsay Wise: 202-383-6007, @lindsaywise

Lesley Clark: 202-383-6054, @lesleyclark