- Jack Dorsey announced a ban on political ads starting November.
- The late Sen. John McCain was a life-long foe of “soft money.”
- Hillary Clinton supports Twitter’s political ban, and has condemned Facebook for hanging on to political advertising dollars. Donald Trump opposed Twitter’s new ad policy.
With Twitter’s ban on paid political advertising, Jack Dorsey is voluntarily doing something John McCain devoted his life to in the U.S. Senate chamber.
The late Sen. John McCain, who ran for president with his party’s nomination in 2008, was a life-long advocate for campaign finance reform.
Because McCain was so passionate about getting money out of politics, he made an unbelievable joke about it in a 1999 speech in Washington DC:
“As I was laying there in my prison cell in Hanoi having my legs broken by interrogators, one thought and one thought alone kept me going, that someday I would return home and do something about soft money.”
The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United opened the floodgates to unprecedented amounts of outside political advertising.
As a result, “soft money,” and anonymous, tax-exempt “dark money” flowed into the American democratic process.
In 2016 for instance, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump raised over half a billion dollars each in soft money. Together they raised over a quarter of a billion of these soft money contributions through so-called Super PACs.
Jack Dorsey Turns Down Political Ad Dollars
Advocates of campaign finance reform like John McCain have waged a political and legal battle to stem the tide. Similarly, Twitter just voluntarily turned down political ad money of any kind, soft money and hard alike.
In a lengthy tweet thread exposition, Dorsey reasoned:
“…it‘s not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want! 😉'”
Jack Dorsey is reasoning here from the same premise as John McCain. They view money as, above all, a necessarily corrupting influence on the political process. Supporters of Citizens United, however, argue there should be no law against what is effectively guaranteed free speech.
In contrast Dorsey is circumventing this constitutional controversy by simply refusing political advertising dollars as a private media company.
Trump Campaign Condemns Twitter Ad Ban
In a tweet Wednesday, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale bashed Twitter’s political ad ban:
“Twitter just walked away form hundreds of millions of dollars of potential revenue, a very dumb decision for their stockholders.”
Twitter share prices did fall in late trading Wednesday, probably as a result of Dorsey’s announcement. Facebook stock, however, continued its winning streak on a strong earnings report. Mark Zuckerberg defended political ads on his platform while on an earnings call with analysts Wednesday.
While Trump’s campaign condemned Twitter Wednesday, Hillary Clinton called the political ad ban “the right thing to do.” Earlier in the day, before Jack Dorsey’s announcement, Clinton attacked Facebook on Twitter, calling its decision not to fact check political ads “appalling.”