Facebook may have violated federal campaign law in 2012 when, according to former Obama media analytics director Carol Davidsen, it gave the Obama campaign special favors, says former Federal Election Commissioner Hans A. von Spakovsky in an interview with Breitbart News.
von Spakovsky, currently an attorney and manager of the Heritage Foundation’s election law reform initiative, told Breitbart News that Davidsen’s comments warranted an investigation.
“It depends on the comments that were made by Carol Davidson who’s their former media director. She said [the Obama campaign] used an app … to get all kinds of data out of Facebook on individual users, and that when Facebook found out about it, she said they came to her and said …. we’re gonna let you do it because we favor your candidate.”
They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.
— Carol Davidsen (@cld276) March 19, 2018
“What it boils down to is this — corporations under American campaign finance law are banned from making contributions to a federal candidate,” said von Spakovsky. “And they not only can’t make cash contributions, they can’t make a contribution of ‘in-kind’ services. So, if Facebook provided data and any kind of other services to one campaign but not to another then they might be considered to have made an illegal corporate contribution.”
“All of this depends on whether that’s true or not. I think Facebook is now claiming that’s not the case, that the Romney campaign had the same access to the data.”
von Spakovsky compared Facebook’s alleged favoritism with a business granting use of their property to a political campaign for free.
“It’s the same way — look if a corporation were to say to a presidential candidate ‘look we own rental property and we’re going to provide it to you for free’ then that would be an illegal corporate contribution.”
“On the other hand if they have property that they make open to anyone that wants to use them without charging, that’s not going to be a contribution, so a lot will depend on what Zuckerberg says and answers questions about when he appears [on Tuesday].”
von Spakovsky also suggested that uneven enforcement of a social media platform’s rules, if applied to two opposing political candidates, could be a violation of federal campaign law. Twitter and other social media platforms have repeatedly faced controversy over their harsh treatment of conservative political figures as compared to leftists.
“If what they’re getting from the social media platform is of value, yes potentially it’s a violation,” said von Spakovsky.
von Spakovsky ended the interview by calling on lawmakers to grill Zuckerberg over alleged favoritism in 2012.
“I think they need to ask them very directly whether the claim made by the Obama campaign are true. Did they provide or allow data to be given or obtained by the Obama campaign in violation of whatever their standard usage rules were?”
“And if Zuckerberg says yes then the question is ‘did you provide the same kind of access in violation of your rules to the Romney campaign in 2012?’ That’s the kind of questions they have to ask to find out what Facebook did and how exactly these campaigns gained access to this kind of data.”