A company which has ‘close ties’ with Steve Bannon, ex-chief strategist of Donald Trump, has been hired by the UAE to launch a social media campaign against Qatar, US website McClatchy has reported.
It is reported that the deal was around $330,000. The firm in case is SCL Social Limited and is part of the same group as Cambridge Analytica – the firm that Trump hired during his Presidential campaign to reach voters with “hyper-targeted online messaging”, the website said.
Bannon, who remains one of Trump’s closest advisers, has long had an interest in the Gulf region. He is apparently sided with the UAE and has been critical about Qatar.
On Monday, Bannon spoke at a day-long conference in Washington organised by the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank and paid for by multiple donors, entitled ‘Countering Violent Extremism: Qatar, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood’.
“The speech follows Bannon’s September meeting in the UAE with its crown prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The two weren’t strangers: Bannon, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn met with crown prince at Trump Tower during the presidential transition in December. That meeting triggered controversy, as the UAE hadn’t notified the outgoing Obama administration about the visit as is customary,” McClatchy said.
“Another firm, the Harbour Group was paid more than $2.5mn by the UAE for work between October 2016 and March 2017, according to the most recent filing available, and signed a contract with the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia 11 days before the blockade was announced paying the firm $80,000 per month. Harbour, which has represented the UAE for 15 years, declined to comment.
“SCL Social Limited, which shares the same ownership and leadership as Cambridge Analytica, recently disclosed a $330,000 contract with the National Media Council of UAE for “a wide range of services specific to a global media campaign,” according to Foreign Agents of Registration Act records. It received $166,500 on September 20.
“Bannon, who served as White House chief strategist until August, retained an ownership stake in Cambridge Analytica worth $1mn to $5mn when he entered the White House, according to his financial disclosure report. He had served as vice president and secretary for Cambridge Analytica and received a monthly consulting fee for his work before resigning his position there in August 2016.
“Bannon was supposed to sell the stake while he served in the administration as part of his ethics agreement and obtained a certificate of divestiture in April 2017 to defer taxes on the potential sale. However, there’s no indication that he actually sold the stake, as he never filed the transaction report that’s required after the purchase or sale of any asset.
“Another of the company’s owners is Robert Mercer, the billionaire who spent millions of dollars helping Trump get elected. Cambridge Analytica didn’t respond to a request for comment,” Mclatchy added.
The House Intelligence Committee, which is looking into whether Trump associates worked with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election, has questioned Cambridge Analytica, according to the Dailybeast.