TikTok Turns To Biden-Linked Lobbying Group As Scrutiny Intensifies
Whether it was Jen Psaki or her successor and former deputy Karine Jean-Pierre, so many instances of the Biden administration's White House Press Secretary fumbling over their words as if they're mimicking the president have come when they have tried to address conflicts of interest connected to his office. Most times, these instances have regarded controversies enveloping Hunter Biden that are often inextricably tied to the younger of the president's sons acting as an intermediary between foreign governments and the big guy --- err, his father.
However, those conflicts of interest haven't been limited to Biden alone. Psaki herself was revealed to have been connected to an Israeli spying company, per financial disclosures she filed before returning to her role as White House Press Secretary for Biden having previously held the same role in the Obama administration. Yet, a new development in the federal governments ongoing saga with TikTok has exposed many more such conflicts of interest deeply embedded in the Biden establishment. As the potential for a nationwide ban of TikTok looms, the Chinese social media platform has enlisted the services of a lobbying firm with close connections to the Biden administration. Several senior and mid-level directors in the Biden administration were previously employed by that very same lobbying group: SKDK.
The mounting pressure behind TikTok's enlistment of SKDK comes on the heels of increased scrutiny aimed at the app by lawmakers on Capitol Hill. On March 7th, the Senate introduced a bill with bipartisan support aimed at curbing the influence of ByteDance, the Chinese tech company is the parent company of TikTok which has drawn the ire of politicians at state, local, and federal levels. Having already been banned by state governments across the country as well as from federal IT infrastructure, the proposed legislation brought to the Senate could mean a nationwide ban of TikTok in general.
The proposed bill backed by a dozen US Senators would imbue the Biden Administration with the power to ban TikTok under its own discretion. While the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act, does not target TikTok specifically, it would be a tool to galvanize the immense political pressure surrounding the app to facilitate action against it, if signed into law. The RESTRICT Act was introduced in the wake of another bill that would require a ban of TikTok depending on the outcome of a national security assessment over the app.
Major Texas University Blocks Students From Using TikTok On Network https://t.co/y4jfeQyhTB— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 20, 2023
However, there is a caveat. The bill would enable a potential ban of TikTok by expanding the powers of the Executive Branch to be able to do so to begin with. Given the presence of several members of the Biden administration who formerly worked for SKDK, concern arises that the president's office may not have the impetus to act on any such ban. Instead, the expansion of his office's powers could ironically serve as a vehicle for Biden to take aim at political opponents.
Presently, Deputy White House Communications Directors Kate Berner and Herbie Ziskend, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh, and Interior Department Press Secretary Tyler Cherry each highlight a roster of bureaucrats appointed by Biden who have previously worked for TikTok's newest ally SKDK. The most prominent member of the Biden Administration with links to the lobbying group is Senior Adviser to the President Anita Dunn, who was a founding partner at the firm.
Given the presence of so many former SKDK employees in Biden's ranks, it should come as no surprise that the administration has fostered a cordial relationship with TikTok. That may be an understatement as the White House actually announced a partnership with the app ahead of the 2022 Midterm Elections to "combat misinformation" in tandem with the Federal Voting Assistance Program, a division of the federal government tasked with assisting overseas voters participate in US elections. This endeavor was part of a broader campaign by TikTok to launch a foray directly into matters regarding US elections. TikTok also partnered with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) to provide voters with information on how to get out their vote. Given that partnership with the NASS, it's clear that whatever influence TikTok has cultivated has permeated into the US political sphere far beyond the federal government alone.
Ahead of enlisting the services of SKDK, the parent company of TikTok has spent more than $13.4 million into lobbying groups since it first reported payments to federal lobbyists in 2019. Over a third of that total was spent on federal lobbying efforts in 2022 alone. That spending vaulted ByteDance to the position of the fourth-largest spending on federal lobbying of any internet company. ByteDance was only outshined by Amazon, Google, and Meta in that regard.
Much of that spending has brought former US Congressmen who are now in the private sector as lobbyists into ByteDance's fold. The company has previously hired former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) as a federal lobbyist along with his colleague at Crossroads Strategies, former Louisiana Senator and US Representative John Breaux, Sr. (D-LA). Several other former House Representatives work for another ByteDance aligned lobbying group, K&L Gates. These lobbyists include Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Bart Gordon (D-TN). The roster of former elected officials ingratiated into the sphere of Chinese-owned companies conveys an equal, if not greater, bipartisan support of TikTok's ongoing operations than those reaching across the aisle to unite on the converse position presently in Congress who have advanced legislation to sanction the company.
As pressure against TikTok intensifies, the social media company has enlisted lobbyists with an understanding of what truly makes Washington tick. That, coupled with the assimilation of like-minded bureaucrats into the Biden administration may prove to be an ominous forecast for the future of the RESTRICT Act and any similar bills that follow in its footsteps. In the end, the approval of the former may ultimately serve as a tool for the Biden administration to have greater resources to wage its political wars anyway, proving that TikTok's immense influence isn't a catalyst for corruption in Washington as much as it is a symptom of its already festering presence.