Wait, Why in the Hell Did Facebook Donate Thousands of Dollars to Ted Cruz?
It's pretty frequent these days to experience Impotent Facebook Rage (IFR), in which the social media giant does something so profoundly irritating or angry-making that you immediately vow to get off the site altogether. And yet, you don't cancel your account cold turkey (or at least I don't), probably because Facebook is basically a blue-and-white, pixelated version of crack cocaine. Today in IFR moments: According to campaign donation data from several sources, Facebook and its employees donated between $12,000 and $15,000 to Ted Cruz in the last election cycle.
This dude: Facebook-approved.
Back in 2011, Facebook formed a PAC; a spokesperson told the Washington Post at the time that the body would "give our employees a way to make their voice heard in the political process by supporting candidates who share our goals of promoting the value of innovation to our economy while giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected."
That's an amazingly wordy sentence that manages, at the same time, to say absolutely nothing at all. It's never been clear how the PAC chooses candidates to give money to; in 2012, Mashable found that they donate to Republicans at a slightly higher rate than Democrats (although, according to campaign donation tracker Open Secrets, they gave some $95,000 to President Obama's re-election, compared with just $20,000 to Mitt Romney).
More recently, Facebook's been in hot water with a number of liberal organizations over its new lobbying outfit, Fwd.us, which was ostensibly founded to support immigration reform. Now, it's facing a (largely symbolic) boycott from those liberal groups, including CREDO Mobile, MoveOn.org and the Daily Kos, over its support for senators who back the Keystone XL pipeline and oppose Obamacare.
So yes, Facebook giving money to conservative politicians and causes is nothing new. But really? Crazy old Ted "Harvard Is Crawling with Communists" Cruz? What gives?
According to Open Secrets, Facebook and its employees gave $15,000 to Cruz in the 2011-2012 election cycle, more than it gave to any other candidate or incumbent except Romney and Obama.
Spokesperson Jodi Seth disputes that all that money came from the Facebook PAC. "That dollar figure is inaccurate," she writes. "The Facebook PAC gave $3,500. There may have been additional contributions from individual employees. Also, the $3,500 was for last year and this year -- we don't normally give more than $2,500 to a candidate in one election cycle."
It's a little misleading to call the number "inaccurate." Open Secrets doesn't claim to separate out the Facebook PAC money versus donations from individual employees; also, the PAC is made up of Facebook employees. The money comes from the same place and goes to the same guy, only in one instance it makes a stop first at the PAC.
We also checked Facebook's filings with the Federal Election Commission. It shows, as Seth said, $3,500 total donated from Facebook's PAC to Cruz in the 2011-2012 cycle. One check was for $1,000, from September 2012, the other for $2,500, from that November. But the Influence Explorer, another very reliable campaign donation search site run by the Sunlight Foundation, clocks Cruz's total donations from individual Facebook employees at $12,500. That brings the total to $16,000, according to them, or $15,000 according to Open Secrets. The point is, either way, Facebook and its employees are giving a lot of dough to Uncle Ted.
And that's interesting, because Cruz has taken a host of, ahem, strong positions on various issues: The Gays, The Communists, The Illegals (in every case, he's not a fan). It's also interesting because, on the whole, individual Facebook donations lean heavily Democratic, an almost 70-30 split. So which of Cruz's pet issues, exactly, do Facebook employees as well as its PAC support so wholeheartedly?
The answer: We don't know. Seth declined to answer several questions about how Facebook chooses its donation recipients.
"Off-the-record, we do not get into the specifics of why we donate to individual candidates," she wrote. (A quick note on that: I informed Seth that I didn't consent to her comments being off the record. The whole purpose of press officers is to speak on the record. That's why we've included the quote here. Press officers, please cut that out.)
In other words, then, Facebook's PAC and its individual employees are apparently big fans of Ted Cruz, willing to throw serious cash behind the man, both through official company channels and private donations. They're just a little shy about saying exactly why. It's probably just his boyish good looks, right?