As TikTok is defending itself, the White House is filled with those connected to its lobbying firm.
Last September, in a sign of our political times, the White House was overrun with influencers, huddling together for photo ops on the grounds and even President Jose Biden posing with a group of people he had never heard of prior. The purpose was to have these outreach experts brought in to sell their audience on the administration’s Inflation Reduction Act.
Their presence called to mind the painful-to-watch/unable-to-look-away episode where TikTok “star” Benny Drama was cavorting around the White House in a cringe video with Jen Psaki, ostensibly meant to promote COVID vaccinations. That getting the shot was mentioned in maybe four seconds of the content seemed irrelevant to the officials. What it displayed was the Biden people making concerted efforts to use those on the controversial Chinese-backed platform, all while giving voice to distancing from its use over security concerns.
That contradictory approach is still evident today, as the CEO was just grilled on The Hill in a hearing that most stated was a disaster all while the administration is still looking to leverage TikTok’s influence for its agitprop. This effort not only contradicts the push to diminish the exposure to the Chi-Coms – as they are known to be using the platform to mine data – but there are severe conflicts within the Biden inner circle involving the company.
The White house is briefing the TikTok stars about the war in Ukraine ..omg 🙏 #tiktok pic.twitter.com/4CWOSAQiDv
— Nilesh (@NileshBharadiy) March 11, 2022
Politico has just come out with a piece covering all manner of TikTok’s efforts to entrench and then maintain its status as the premiere video social platform in the country, but there are some notable details on the side of the Biden camp. TikTok is currently being represented by the powerful left-favoring lobbying firm SKDK. As it stands, a number of former employees from that firm are now working inside the White House, Chief among those is Biden’s Senior advisor, Anita Dunn.
For a President who at least paid lip service to opposing lobbyists, there is a surprising amount of these people in the man’s orbit. There are several other former SKDK employees in the Biden administration, such as Kate Berner, Herbie Ziskend, deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh and Interior Department press secretary Tyler Cherry. All told, at least ten SKDK alumni are part of the administration – from just one firm.
This is presenting as a possibly large issue for the administration. When Dunn made her return to the White House last summer, she was required to disclose her finances and divest from holdings. That would include the firm she help found, as well as the millions she held with the stock of its parent company. (By September of last year, she still had yet to follow through on the requirement.) But Dunn also is required to recuse herself from any work that would involve her former company. A White House spokesman announced that Dunn “will need to divest her holdings and is recused from all matters involving SKDK and her past clients.”
Yet as Politico notes, there was Dunn recently working in the White House to get those on TikTok to promote issues, including President Biden’s State of the Union address.
Ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address in February, White House senior adviser Anita Dunn pointed allies toward the app as an influential messaging tool during a “Women’s Community Engagement Update” hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement. During the call, Dunn told participants that the White House wanted people to brandish the administration’s accomplishments on social media, according to two people on the call. Of course the White House could not use TikTok, Dunn said. But she suggested that if people on the call were users of the app, then they should share parts of the president’s speech on TikTok.
The announced deal between SKDK and TikTok came out in the first week of this March, but it was understandably an arrangement that had been months in the making. This means that while SKDK was already in the process of working with the social media platform, Dunn was pushing to get influencers on TikTok for their efforts, effectively promoting the platform. This appears to be a conflict in direct violation of the recusal orders for her inside the White House.
Meanwhile, the company itself is gathering up its share of Biden acolytes to work directly on its behalf. In 2022, the lobbying efforts totaled over $5 million, a sum likely to be exceeded this year as more opposition in D.C. is rising. Last week, it was announced that TikTok hired for its lobbying efforts a second name with ties to Biden.
Documents filed with Congress [last] week show the company tapped for-hire lobbyist Ankit Desai, who previously served in Biden’s office during his time as a senator in 2005. The hire comes after the company also recruited Jamal Brown, former national press secretary for the president’s 2020 campaign.
Then, just to show how far the complicity goes as well as explaining some of the reticence on the part of the media to detail these maneuvers too accurately, we have the figure rising to Anita Dunn’s defense in the form of Hilary Rosen. The CNN commentator pushed back firmly against any implication of impropriety on the part of Biden’s Senior Advisor.
This is total BS. Anita just doesn’t operate that way. AND she has no financial interest, (as I don’t) in SKDK anymore.
— Hilary Rosen (@hilaryr) March 30, 2023
This is hardly a valid character source, once you see that until March 2022, Rosen had partnered with Anita Dunn at SKDK for years. She worked on the push behind Kamala Harris, #WeHaveHerBack, during the 2020 presidential campaign. Now ensconced as an expert at the news network, we can expect this same type of defensive coverage – or, better still for Dunn, no coverage at all.
This all displays how deeply the tendrils are rooted across The Swamp. TikTok hires a powerful lobbying firm, that firm has plants throughout the White House, administration officials promote the platform, former Biden aids are hired by the company, and even those in the media have allied connections. The Chi-Coms must be sitting back and smiling at the ludicrous nature of it all. Or, they are laughing.
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