A2P was started in 2015 by Samantha Ravich who was on the Trump transition team, A2P partner Sean Noble runs a nonprofit funded largely by the Koch brothers, and A2P developed an app with a think tank funded by the DeVos family and Koch brothers.
One of the big mysteries in the Trump-Russia investigation is unraveling whether many of the connections among people and organizations involved with Brexit, the Trump campaign and sometimes with Russia, are coincidental or indicative of coordination, that in some cases, may violate laws about foreign influence in campaigns. After the June 2016 vote for Brexit, Trump continually mentioned Brexit on the campaign trail saying the US people wanted their country back, too. The first UK representative Trump met with was not Theresa May but Nigel Farage, along with Brexit backer Arron Banks.
While not uncommon in politics, the number of people and companies that overlap between the Brexit referendum and the Trump campaign has been noteworthy. And recent reporting on Arron Banks, the largest Brexit funder who keeps updating his story about meetings with the Russian ambassador and discussions about potential Russian business deals, has attracted the interest of the Mueller investigation.
Recently, Twitter researchers @lbrough, @NarcAware and @Sasseenaqs1, identified Awareness Analytics Partners, also known as A2P, an influence and social media company, where Matthew Elliott who ran the pro-Brexit Vote Leave campaign had worked alongside executives connected to Trump, the Koch brothers, and the DeVos family.
Matthew Elliott, CEO of Vote Leave
News broke this week that the UK’s Electoral Commission is preparing to conclude that the campaign to leave the European Union — Vote Leave — is guilty of overspending and breaking election law during the 2016 referendum.
The CEO of Vote Leave, Matthew Elliott is a founder of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, the UK equivalent to America’s Tea Party, and a founder of Business for Britain (BfB) which formed the basis for the Vote Leave campaign. Until May 2018 Elliott was a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute, which journalist Peter Geoghegan described as “the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank.”
Matthew Elliott also has ties to Russia. Carole Cadwalladr wrote in The Observer that Elliott was a member of Conservative Friends of Russia:
“In 2012 — or possibly earlier — Matthew Elliott was targeted by a man the Home Office now believes was a Russian spy. Sergey Nalobin was the first secretary in the Russian embassy’s political section in London when Elliott met him.”
Photographs published in an article by Luke Harding show that Matthew Elliott was a founding member of Conservative Friends of Russia and in 2012 went on a 10 day trip to Moscow. When Elliott announced his engagement on Twitter in 2014, “the first person to congratulate him was Sergey Nalobin.”
In 2015, shortly after the inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko had concluded that he was “probably murdered on the personal orders of Putin,” Sergey Nalobin’s visa expired and was not renewed and he returned to Russia.
Given the finding of the Electoral Commission that Vote Leave broke election law spending limits, Matthew Elliott is likely to be in the spotlight and to have more questions to answer about the financial decisions made by the Vote Leave campaign.
And based on this recent news, it is notable that after the Brexit referendum and election of Trump, from 2017 until early 2018, Elliott was on the executive team of Awareness Analytics Partners, where he worked alongside colleagues with significant US political connections. An archive of the A2P site from January 2018 includes Matthew Elliot who is now removed, indicating that he was involved with the company at least since the site was first archived in May 2017, if not earlier.
Awareness Analytics Partners, LLC — A2 Partners — A2P
Awareness Analytics Partners, LLC was incorporated on June 25, 2015 in Virginia by Samantha Ravich. Two other companies with similar names were created by Ravich, A2 Partners, LLC in 2013 and Awareness & Analysis Partners, LLC in 2015, but both are now inactive.
The website says the company received a $10 million R&D technology investment and that they are “experts in understanding and utilizing influence, enhancing online messaging and delivering groundbreaking social media advertising results.”
Partners on the website include American Encore, Freedom Capital, Salem Media Group (which has Christian and family-themed content and conservative values), VoteSpotter, Independence Institute and the Mackinac Center.
The A2P website features a VoteSpotter app that it says in 2016 had generated millions of voter interactions in all 50 states. The app connects users to elected officials based on location so that users can see how legislators voted and provide feedback to them and to other users.
A2P supported the team that developed VoteSpotter, which was created by the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The Mackinac Center has received significant funding from the DeVos family, often $50,000 per year according to 990 tax filings, and Richard DeVos, the father-in-law of Betsy DeVos, is a former Mackinac board member. The Mackinac Center also has close ties to the Koch brothers.
In May 2017, the Mackinac Center hosted an event featuring an evening with Matthew Elliott “The Brains Behind Brexit.”
In addition to supporting the Mackinac Center which developed the VoteSpotter app, the Koch brothers have another connection to A2P — executive Sean Noble is the founder of American Encore, a nonprofit funded largely by the Koch brothers.
According to a 2014 WSJ article, Sean Noble “presided over a vast network of issue-advocacy groups financed in part by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.” American Encore was formerly called the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR) and from 2009 to 2012 it distributed more than $182 million to advocacy groups, making Sean Noble an important part of the Koch financial network.
Noble is the co-founder of DC London, a campaign consultancy for issue advocacy. Joseph Weaver who works with A2P notes in his bio that he had previously worked in a product development role for DC London during the 2012 presidential election.
Another company Sean Noble works with changed its name last year after a former partner was indicted. Noble is a partner at Compass Strategies which works on lobbying, campaign management, PR, crisis management, and other related areas. Compass Strategies was previously called Axiom Public Affairs, but changed its name in June 2017 after one of the partners Jim Norton was indicted in a case in Arizona for acting as a conduit in a bribery case.
In a separate story, in November 2017 Senator Kamala Harris called for an investigation into why Arizona Governor Doug Ducey featured the drug Vivitrol in his state-of-the-state address calling it a “miracle drug.” Alkermes, the company that produced Vivitrol had been a client of Axiom Public Affairs, where Jim Norton, a close friend of Ducey, and Sean Noble worked. Noble had also helped to raise funds for Ducey’s 2014 election. However there is no indication that Noble was involved with any wrongdoing.
Listed in his LinkedIn profile as Managing Partner at A2P, Andy Bookless has an extensive business and political background, and describes working on two campaigns including the 2008 re-election of Congressman Peter Roskam in Illinois, and the 2005 MP re-election campaign for Theresa May.
The founder of A2P, Samantha Ravich, has deep experience in Washington.
Ravich worked as deputy national security advisor for Vice President Dick Cheney, was an advisor to the Chertoff Group, and was an advisor and board member for a company based in Sydney and Virginia called DroneShield. She is a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies where she is the lead investigator on a project on Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare.
Ravich was part of Trump’s national security transition team. And according to a January 2018 article about Trump’s plans to create an Intelligence Advisory Board led by Stephen Feinberg, the CEO of Cerberus Capital Management, sources said that Feinberg’s deputy would be Samantha Ravich.
Connecting the dots
Little information is available online about A2P — a company that sounds similar to Cambridge Analytica — but which may be like many of the social media companies in the political space, pursuing typical work with typical clients. But with the news that the UK Electoral Commission is issuing a draft report finding that the Vote Leave campaign led by Matthew Elliott is guilty of breaking election law, it’s important to understand more about Elliott’s involvement at A2P where he partnered with Sean Noble who has been linked to the Koch brothers, and Samantha Ravich who was part of Trump’s national security transition team and who may have a future role in the White House.
Update July 5, 2018: It appears that Matthew F. Hunter, the former Director of Political Affairs for Cambridge Analytica, was a partner in A2P at the same time in 2017 that Matthew Elliot was a partner there (tip from Twitter user @brazencapital).