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The Federal Electoral Commission is responsible for enforcing the law governing the collection and spending of federal campaign funds. Last year, the commission dismissed a complaint against Twitter and its executives alleging they had violated federal laws. In light of the recent public disclosures of internal and external Twitter communications with campaign and party organizations, the FEC should reopen this investigation. It must determine whether this termination was based on incorrect information from Twitter.
In 2021, the FEC investigated three consolidated complaints filed against Twitter, Jack Dorsey, Brandon Borrman and the Biden for President campaign. Dorsey is Twitter’s co-founder and former CEO, while Borrman is Twitter’s former vice president of global communications.
According to the FEC’s Factual and Legal Analysis report, prepared by the FEC’s General Counsel, the complaints alleged that Twitter made a “prohibited corporate contribution in kind” to the Biden campaign. Federal law prohibits corporations from donating “anything of value” to federal candidates. For example, if a company allows campaign-free use of rental properties it owns, that would be an illegal contribution in kind by the company.
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The complaints argued that “Twitter made a contribution in kind by preventing users from Tweeting links to or certain information gleaned from New York Post articles about Hunter Biden’s laptop.” The complaints alleged that Twitter “restricted the visibility or ‘shadow ban’ of Republican users” and “suppressed distribution of an interview with an alleged former Hunter Biden business partner.” The latter allegation related to Tony Bobulinski, who claimed he was defrauded by Biden and that the Biden family was involved in an “influence trading operation.” The complaints also alleged that Twitter illegally coordinated its actions with the Biden campaign and, as a result, the Biden campaign “knowingly accepted the prohibited corporate posts.”
After examining the allegations, the six commissioners voted to dismiss the complaint. But according to the General Counsel’s report, that decision was based on Twitter telling the FEC that Twitter had not made an illegal corporate contribution because it had “good faith commercial reasons” for its actions and they “were not made for the purpose of influencing a federal election.” ”
In addition, Twitter “issued an affidavit from its Head of US Public Policy [Lauren Culbertson] testify that neither she nor any other Twitter employee has received communications from or communicated with any representative of Twitter [the Biden Committee]’ before Twitter took action to quash the New York Post revelations. The general counsel also reported that the “Biden committee states it has not coordinated with Twitter.”
The alleged “good faith commercial reasons” given by Twitter were its policy against the distribution of “hacked” materials. However, there was no evidence that the materials had been hacked. The New York Post articles made it very clear that their information came from a laptop that Hunter Biden had left in a computer repair shop. Additionally, Twitter had no qualms about circulating articles based on top-secret documents illegally disclosed by Edward Snowden in 2013.
There was also no evidence that the laptop information was incorrect. Neither Hunter Biden nor the Biden campaign have ever “publicly denied the authenticity of laptop documents.”
No wonder recently disclosed internal filings show that Twitter’s own Policy Communications Manager said he “has struggled to understand the policy basis for labeling this as unsafe.”
These disclosures show that the FEC may have dismissed these complaints due to incorrect and incomplete responses from Twitter.
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The commission appeared to take Twitter’s claim that it acted for “good commercial reasons” at face value, but the fact that executives within Twitter have questioned the story’s suppression certainly casts doubt on that claim.
In addition, the now disclosed communications between Twitter and various political actors call into question whether the company was truthful in declining to have any communications with the Biden campaign on these issues. This also appears to have been a key factor in the FEC’s dismissal of the complaint. The General Counsel’s report states, “There is no evidence that Twitter coordinated its actions with the Biden Committee, and as such, the actions did not constitute contributions.”
In light of the recent public disclosures of internal and external Twitter communications with campaign and party organizations, the FEC should reopen this investigation. It must determine whether this termination was based on incorrect information from Twitter.
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In dismissing the FEC complaint, several of the commissioners stated that even if Twitter had participated in the alleged acts, it was entitled to the media exemption for publishers under federal law. But Jack Dorsey himself said in 2020 when asked “Is Twitter a publisher? No, we are not. We spread information.”
There is now reason to believe that Twitter and its executives misled or outright lied to the FEC. The commission should resume its investigation, subpoena Twitter for all materials and communications relevant to these issues, and determine whether federal campaign finance laws have been violated. It should also investigate whether those who made affidavits committed perjury and should therefore be referred to the Department of Justice for possible criminal charges.
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