Have you ever wondered how to search all political ads on Facebook to examine the messaging that campaigns and third-party electioneering organizations are using?
In an effort to offer more transparency about how its enormously influential platform is being used to affect American elections, Facebook launched www.Facebook.com/PoliticalContentAds in May.
The search function allows users to peruse active and inactive ads deemed “political content” by the social media giant. To create the database, however, Facebook had to begin requiring pages that desired to boost political posts — i.e., pages that will pay to reach targeted eyeballs — to register as the intellectual property of a flesh-and-blood American.
I should know. I had to register NonDoc’s Facebook page so that we could boost our series of political debates in June. Considering the documentation and information I had to provide, the process was cumbersome and left me feeling equal parts vulnerable and sold out.
That said, I believe the new database is a step in the right direction that sheds light on how paid speech enters digital political discussions. For instance, I present the following three organizations and their paid Facebook attempts at influencing Oklahoma’s #Election2018.
The Conservative Alliance PAC
A group called Conservative Alliance PAC used targeted Facebook advertisements in June to lambaste Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy) for opposing the revenue increases for teacher pay raises. Ironically, the PAC also used Facebook advertising to say Roberts increased government spending.
Roberts — known casually as the Legislature’s most avid player of video games in his office — has been forced into a runoff against Louise Redcorn, who Roberts supporters called “a liberal California Democrat” in the Conservative Alliance PAC’s Facebook advertisements.
In a five-way primary, Roberts received 1,823 (33.1 percent) while Redcorn received 1,771 (32.1 percent) of the HD 36 vote.
As of the publication of this post, no ads about Roberts or Redcorn have been boosted on Facebook since an ad praised Roberts from a third-party group Aug. 3
The Oklahoma Second Amendment Association
The third-party ad referenced above was from the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association — OK2A, colloquially — which has been one of Oklahoma’s most active Facebook advertising organizations since the social media platform implemented its new rules on the matter.
A review of the group’s ads indicates broad and strong support for hard-right Republicans in the Legislature and a general promotion of its candidate ratings about gun-rights issues. The group has endorsed Roberts as well as a host of other incumbent lawmakers.
The Foundation for Economic Prosperity
A search of “Oklahoma” on the Facebook political content ad database reveals that one of the most interesting third-party advertisements running currently is a boost for Republican gubernatorial candidate Mick Cornett.
Those Facebook ads are being run by the Foundation for Economic Prosperity, a 501(c)(4) organization. That type of nonprofit typically is unable to offer tax deductions to donors but is able to accept unlimited personal or corporate donations for use in “social welfare” efforts, including partisan campaign activity, so long as the activity is a secondary purpose of the organization.
The Foundation for Economic Prosperity was incorporated by political action committee guru Trey Richardson, a board member of the American Association of Political Consultants who is “known for his creativity.” He founded the Foundation for Economic Prosperity in 2014.
That same year, it ran ads supporting Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb’s re-election. Lamb ran for governor this year but finished third in the Republican primary. The PAC also ran ads that year in favor of now-U.S. Sen. James Lankford.
Callers to the (405) 601-3775 number associated with the Foundation for Economic Prosperity are asked to leave a voicemail by a male voice that identifies itself as “GR Pro,” which is a public affairs run by Richardson that bills itself as “the driving force behind pro-business initiatives and candidates.” My call to the number Monday afternoon was not returned by the time this post published, so I’m not sure what the organization’s primary and non-partisan purposes are.
Check who is and isn’t advertising on Facebook
While there are many more things that could be said about the Facebook ads run for or against Oklahoma politicians in the past couple months, this post was simply intended to alert you to the resource.
Dive in yourself and see what you find (or what you don’t find), as in some ways it’s just as interesting to realize Democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson is not advertising on Facebook as it is to see GOP-runoff candidate Kevin Stitt advertising the endorsement of Rick “Bullshit” Santorum.
Knowing how to search all political ads on Facebook is a great way to lose track of time and feel like an utter political nerd.
(Correction: This post was updated at 10:30 a.m. to include correct information about the voice message referenced above.)