As the midterm elections approach, money is flowing into the coffers of candidates, parties, and outside groups at unprecedented rates. Meanwhile the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has, by many accounts, softened its enforcement of campaign finance laws. Clever political operatives and their lawyers stand ready to exploit the regulatory vacuum. This post focuses on one particularly inventive and consequential practice: sharing and selling political data.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal opened our eyes to the fact that personal information is valuable to campaigns. Cambridge Analytica used the information of over 80 million Facebook users to create advertisements, build models to predict behavior, and deliver the right messages to the right people, apparently without Facebook’s knowledge. Many organizations do not want the information of their customers and users exploited this way, but others do. Companies, campaigns, and parties have been collecting and exchanging personal information for years.

Michael D. Gilbert & Samir Sheth, Super PACs and the Market for Data, Harvard Law Review Blog (November 2, 2018).