Welcome to the Checks & Imbalances newsletter. Today we look at Dr. Oz’s billionaire family, TikTok’s political spending, Obama-Biden officials who cashed in during their time in exile and the New York Young Republican Club’s featured speaker.
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“The Senate Intelligence Committee has sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking that it open an investigation into whether TikTok misled U.S. lawmakers about China-based employees of its parent company, ByteDance, accessing American user data,” reports Emily Baker-White.
After reading that article by our colleague, Checks & Imbalances decided to look at the social-media firm’s political spending.
Employees of TikTok and ByteDance have contributed at least $118,000 to political campaigns since 2019, according to campaign-finance records. During his 19 months as ByteDance’s top U.S. lobbyist, which ended in January, David Urban, a longtime GOP donor, contributed $50,000 to Republican groups. Just more than half of Urban’s donations went to committees associated with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.). Meanwhile, $19,000 in donations from TikTok’s director of global policy, Michael Hacker, have gone to Democratic groups.
Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) appears to be the only member of the Senate Intelligence Committee to have received campaign donations from TikTok or Byte Dance staffers. His campaign took in $2,000 from four different donors over a two-day period in May 2021.
ByteDance has supported lawmakers in other ways too: in July 2021, it contributed $20,000 to a scholarship and research foundation named after Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), according to a disclosure.
TikTok also has retained an outside firm to help its cause. Since early 2021, it’s paid Crossroads Strategies $110,000 every three months to have former Senators Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Breaux Sr. (R-La.) lobby their ex colleagues on its behalf. And so far 2022, ByteDance has reported paying lobbying firms $170,000 to press its case in the House.
TikTok employees who work with sensitive US user data continue to report to ByteDance executives in Beijing, despite TikTok’s recent claims to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Updates on Checks & Imbalances’ previous reporting
Nebraska Republican Jeff Fortenberry has already resigned from Congress and been sentenced to two years probation for lying to the FBI, but his case continues to make news. On Tuesday, the judge ordered Fortenberry’s attorney, John Littrel, to explain why he should not be sanctioned for allegedly introducing facts in his closing argument that had not been mentioned previously in court.
Fortenberry’s campaign has paid Littrel’s law firm at least $703,000.
Jack Posobiec will be a featured speaker at the New York Young Republican Club’s 110th annual gala in December, the group announced on Tuesday.
The Evite describes Posobiec as senior editor at a conservative political news and analysis website, the host of a Turning Point USA podcast and a fellow at a conservative think tank. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes him as “a political operative and internet performer of the anti-democracy hard right, known primarily for creating and amplifying viral disinformation campaigns.”
Tickets to the black-tie event start at $350.
– Glenn Miller, “Pennsylvania 6-5000”