Asked about the similarities, Ms Powers said: “Don’t remember them, never spoke to them.”
She added: “I did follow all the rules that are set out by the electoral commission.
“I just happen to have, I guess, an amateur interest in housing policy.”
Mr Cowley said: “The Fair Tax Campaign complied with the strict rules set by the Electoral Commission, and Facebook’s advertising policies.”
Analysis of both campaigns’ websites revealed their privacy policies were more than 70 percent identical – but that the text appears on no other site online.
The website for Powers’s campaign has been taken offline but the site is still accessible on internet archives. Both Powers and Crowley’s campaigns stopped buying Facebook adverts immediately after the general election.
A former MP has written to the Electoral Commission calling on the watchdog to launch an inquiry, raising concerns about co-ordination between third party campaign groups and the potential for US-style ‘SuperPACs’ to anonymously fund British political campaigns.
In a letter to Electoral Commission chief Bob Posner, Unlock Democracy director Tom Brake wrote: “More than a dozen third-party campaigns that had spent heavily in the 2019 election reported that they had received no funding above the £7,500 threshold for declaring individual donations, and therefore did not have to supply details of any donor to the Electoral Commission.”
Brake, who lost his seat as a Liberal Democrat in the 2019 general election, added that “as a candidate in eight general elections who has had to fundraise for each of those elections, the sums raised (and then spent) by some of these groups in a very short period of time, without receiving a single donation above £7,500, is astounding.”
British electoral law has tight rules on coordination between political campaigns. Any coordinated campaigning must be declared as ‘joint working’ and campaigns involved have to declare their spending together.
In 2018, Dominic Cummings’s Vote Leave was found to have broken the law by failing to declare joint working during the Brexit referendum.
Mr Brake said the near-identical texts “could be a complete coincidence but I consider it would be in the public’s interest to seek to establish this.
“Particularly as joint-campaigning or coordination in other areas, over messaging for instance, needs to be accurately reported.”
In 2019 it was reported Mr Crowley, who left No10 just a month before the election was called, had worked on a fake grassroots campaign pushing for a no-deal Brexit.
The Guardian reported Mr Crowley had overseen the “Mainstream Network” Facebook campaign alongside employees of the lobbying firm run by Sir Lynton Crosby, the Australian political strategist who helped run three Conservative general election campaigns.
In November 2019 one of the Fair Tax Campaign’s ads was banned by Facebook, after the campaign failed to properly declare it as a political message.