Former Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore said Monday that his rights and the rights of the voters of Alabama to have a fair election were violated by an effort to use social media to influence the campaign.
“As a conservative Christian, I was unfairly attacked by a high-tech cyber disinformation campaign in the 2017 race for U. S. Senate that violated not only my rights, but also the right of every Alabama voter to participate in a fair election,” Moore said.
This effort was financed by Reid Hoffman, an internet billionaire best known as the co-founder of Linkedin. He was also an early investor in Facebook. Hoffman said that he had no knowledge of what the money was actually used for and has apologized for his role in the effort
Hoffman donated $750,000 to American Engagement Technologies (AET) to defeat Roy Moore.
AET created a fake Republican Facebook page urging Republicans and conservatives to write in someone else’s name rather than vote for Moore.
The project’s operators used the page in an attempt to divide Republicans. It also reportedly involved a scheme to link Moore’s campaign to thousands of Russian bot accounts that suddenly began following him on Twitter, a development that drew national and local media attention.
Hoffman in his apology called for a federal investigation into the operation, which he said he had no knowledge of, even though he paid for it.
“I want to make it clear from the outset that I had never even heard of this project before reading about it in the Times’ coverage,” Hoffman said in a statement. “The Times articles imply that I had knowledge of it and that I endorsed its tactics. Let me be absolutely clear: I do not. I categorically disavow the use of misinformation to sway an election. In fact, I have deliberately funded multiple organizations trying to re-establish civic, truth-focused discourse in the US. I would not have knowingly funded a project planning to use such tactics, and would have refused to invest in any organization that I knew might conduct such a project. Nevertheless, I do have an apology to make and have learned a lesson here.”
“AET, in turn, provided funding to a group called New Knowledge,” Hoffman continued. “Through AET or otherwise, I have never personally authorized or directed any funding to New Knowledge. I — regretfully — do not know why AET chose to support New Knowledge or for what specific purposes, if any, this funding was allocated. To reiterate yet again, I find the tactics that have been recently reported highly disturbing. For that reason, I am embarrassed by my failure to track AET — the organization I did support — more diligently as it made its own decisions to perhaps fund projects that I would reject.”
“That I had no knowledge of the actions the Times’ describes does not absolve me of my ethical responsibility to exercise adequate diligence in monitoring my investments.” Hoffman stated. “Senator Doug Jones has called for an inquiry into this alleged operation which, from reading the Times, I agree is a good idea. We cannot permit dishonest campaign tactics to go unchecked in our democracy — no matter which side they purportedly help.”
U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, has said he did not have any knowledge of the effort and has called for an FBI investigation.
Moore is unmoved by the apologies and calls for investigations.
“Apologies, retractions, or even feigned calls for an investigation by my former opponent can do little to right the wrong,” Moore said. “Nevertheless, with the 2020 elections drawing near, our entire Country should be alerted to the dangers of fraud and deception in our political process.”
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) said that his office is looking into the possibility that state laws may have been broken by the efforts of the Democratic Party operatives in the 2017 special election.
Doug Jones is the only Democratic candidate for any statewide office to win election in the state of Alabama since 2008.
This scandal has been exposed by a series of reports by the New York Times.