- Pro-Trump group Turning Point USA funded deceptive Facebook ads backing Green Party candidates.
- The effort to split the Democratic vote in 2018 was first reported by The Guardian.
- Facebook knew the pro-Trump group was funding the ads, according to the report.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Leaked Facebook documents show that a right-wing political consulting firm tied to Turning Point USA bought Facebook ads for Green Party candidates to try to split the vote for the 2018 midterm elections, according to a report from The Guardian.
The conservative marketing firm Rally Forge also created an organization called American Progress Now, in which it used socialist memes to encourage Democratic voters to vote for Green part candidates, the Guardian reported.
Rally Forge was later banned from Facebook after creating a “troll farm” for Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA.
Backing the Green Party with the ads was part of a Turning Point USA effort to split the Democratic vote.
The tactic of peeling off voters who would otherwise vote for the opposition by promoting a third party instead is nothing new, but also constrained by campaign finance laws.
American Progress Now may have violated campaign finance laws by misrepresenting themselves to the Federal Election Commission, according to The Guardian.
The group was already under campaign finance scrutiny following a Vice News and ProPublica investigation into their links to the Facebook ads without proper disclosures around independent expenditures and proper disclosures.
“It seems as if it’s a clear fraud,” Ann Revel, a former FEC commissioner, told The Guardian after reviewing the documents. “The requirement for the justice department to take on an electoral matter is that it be serious and willful, and clearly in this case it was willful, in my opinion.”
In July 2020, the FEC dismissed a potential case against American Progress Now after a watchdog group filed a complaint against them.
Evan Muhlstein of APN took responsibility for the lack of disclosure, citing his “inexperience,” according to the closed FEC file.
The FEC cited a policy not to comment on enforcement matters, according to The Guardian.
Muhlstein did not disclose the ad buys through Rally Forge until December 2020.