Facebook-Backed Group Receives $34 Million Donation to Fight Antitrust Legislation

Facebook-Backed Group Receives $34 Million Donation to Fight Antitrust Legislation

An anonymous donor gave $34 million to the American Edge Project, an advocacy group backed by Facebook, to fight antitrust legislation that would have more tightly regulated the tech industry. Although the organization’s latest 990 tax forms do not list names of donors, a person who works with the group confirmed that the donation was from Facebook. The nonprofit raised the massive amount almost two years ago, according to the documents.

The American Edge Project launched its first pro-tech industry ad in 2020, and its previous 990 forms, from 2019 through late 2020, showed it raised all of its money from a single anonymous $4 million donation during that period. Facebook confirmed in 2020 that it was contributing to the group. The group went into 2022 with over $13 million in net assets, according to its 990 forms.

The new documents show that the tech advocacy group scored its biggest fundraising haul yet when bipartisan lawmakers on Capitol Hill were attempting to take on tech giants, including through antitrust legislation that didn’t pass Congress and a hearing in March 2021 featuring tech CEOs such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. The bills were poised to create a much more uncertain legal environment for Facebook and its peers, including by making it harder to acquire firms that could help their businesses grow.

American Edge spent over $5 million between TV and digital ads in 2021, according to data from AdImpact. It spent over $10 million on TV ads last year, AdImpact says. The group went into 2022 with over $13 million in net assets, according to its 990 forms.

The $34 million donation also came as American Edge announced it was adding former Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., as advisory board co-chairs to “lead the coalition’s efforts on internet openness, accessibility and free expression,” according to the press release. Walden is still listed on the group’s website as a leader of an advisory board, while Heitkamp is no longer listed.

A 2022 report by the watchdog Tech Transparency Project says Facebook is potentially American Edge’s “sole funder.” The Tech Transparency Project receives funding from the George Soros-backed Open Society Foundations, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Bohemian Foundation and Omidyar Network, according to its website.

Facebook itself has spent over $58 million since the start of 2020 on federal lobbying, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan OpenSecrets.

Beyond the $34 million donation, the only other contribution listed on the tax disclosure was another anonymous donation – of $25,000. The multimillion-dollar contribution allowed American Edge to spend just over $19 million on what the forms refer to as media placement and strategic services.

The 990 forms, which were signed and filed by the group in 2022, also show that powerful consulting firms that work for American Edge also received over $3 million combined from the organization. Cavalry LLC, a firm founded by former strategists of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was paid $1.1 million by American Edge from November 2020 through October 2021. Global Strategy Group, a political and corporate consulting firm that was founded by three Democratic strategists, received $910,000 from American Edge over that same time period.

Politics

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