Don't Talk About Our Facebook Money!

Organizations and publications that accept Big Tech contributions should expect to be attacked for it.

Fundraising is an incredibly difficult and necessary part of campaign politics, at least if one wants to be successful. Politicians receive campaign contributions not only from individual supporters, but from various interest groups, including corporate PACs, labor unions, pro-life organizations, abortion providers, you name it. These contributions are a fact of life in a two-party, coalition-based system. There’s not much point in bemoaning it — as long as we are a democracy, we will have faction.

When these interest groups decide to contribute to a politician’s campaign, they do so hoping the politician will vote a certain way in the future. Then, the politician has a choice. He can betray the wishes of his donor, or he can keep whatever commitments he has made to earn the contribution and anticipate future contributions. Regardless of how it is characterized, or normalized, or whatever, it is what it is: a quid pro quo.

Because fundraising is the worst, politicians aren’t usually looking to alienate big donors. You’ll never see a Democrat criticize Planned Parenthood. You’ll rarely see a Republican criticize the National Rifle Association. And there’s a reason for that — even if a donor did something wrong, and the politician is pressured to comment about it, the old rule applies: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” This is also why so many lame-duck politicians suddenly feel liberated to say what they really think after they announce their retirements.

Every election cycle there are hundreds of campaign ads criticizing candidates over their campaign contributions. This is absolutely fair game. If a candidate thinks taking campaign contributions from a particular company or organization might cost him with his actual constituents, maybe he shouldn’t take the contribution!

Here’s an uncomfortable truth that might get me uninvited from a few galas and cocktail parties: raising money is the chief day-to-day concern for most political organizations and publications. Thus, the same quid pro quo donor dynamic exists, and probably to an even more dramatic degree — some of these organizations often receive grants worth six figures. So why wouldn’t it be fair to point that out in debate? Especially if the organization or publication in question is promoting Big Tech talking points?

It is a fact that Big Tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter engaged in algorithmic manipulation and systemic censorship of conservatives during the fall of 2020, no doubt costing Donald Trump the election. So what am I supposed to make of a tweet like this one?

I suppose David French is libertarian enough to take the incredible positions he does regardless of who pays his salary, but his argument is absurd. Some Facebook pages are performing well, so therefore Facebook couldn’t have possibly engaged in mass censorship of right-wing political ads during the fall of 2020? Really?

It’s hard to take French seriously when he just happens to echo the same position of the company that pays his publication untold amounts of money to “fact-check” conservatives. And he should understand that his arguments about censorship fall flat in large part due to his publication’s shameful effort to block pro-life ads during the final weeks of the 2020 campaign.

It’s not just The Dispatch. Dozens of publications are on the payroll of Big Tech. Those newsletters like “Politico Playbook” you receive in your inbox every morning? Presented by Facebook. As Wired reported in March:

The regulation ads are part of an all-out blitz on the part of not just Facebook but also Google and Amazon… A very visible part of that push has come in the form of newsletter sponsorships. After noticing a deluge beginning in early February, the Tech Transparency Project tracked the sponsorships of 10 super-inside-the-Beltway newsletters, from Politico, the Hill, Axios, and Punchbowl News. They found that for every day in February, at least one of the newsletters was sponsored by one of the three companies or American Edge. In the third week of the month, Facebook alone sponsored three of them.

Can one really trust a reporter to accurately cover the misdeeds of Facebook and Amazon when Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos pay his rent?

Last summer, The National Pulse, a publication affiliated with my employer, controversially published a “go-to list of conservative influencers” that Google maintained in an attempt to influence the narrative in Washington, D.C. While some of the groups listed do not receive Big Tech money, many do, or at least did at the time.

Can one really trust a policy wonk’s arguments about Big Tech regulation when they take money from Big Tech companies and repeat talking points from Big Tech lobbyists?

Ultimately, the issue is not the money, it’s what the money represents. It’s about trust. If an organization gets money from Google, advocates for policies that Google likes, promotes Google talking points, and refuses to criticize Google for its efforts to swing the election to Joe Biden, what distinguishes them from Google’s public policy team?

And let’s be honest: Google isn’t giving money to these “center-right” organizations because they agree with their deeply held principles about limited government and the free market. The goal of the contributions is to encourage silence on the Right — to head off any potential opposition. These organizations are quite literally paid to use their influence in conservative circles to discourage the rest of America outside the beltway from attacking their donors — near-trillion dollar Big Tech companies.

If you take Big Tech money, and if you run interference for their efforts to destroy our democracy, you’re effectively compromised. You’re going to get attacked for it. Pointing out the obvious is fair game.