TikTok Lobbyists Enjoy Open Access To Biden White House

In recent years, the Chinese social media platform TikTok has grown exponentially in popularity. But, alongside its success, the company faces scrutiny from lawmakers over national security, espionage, and data privacy concerns. Consequently, TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, have spent $13 million on federal lobbying since 2019, hiring influential firms like SKDK, a prominent Democratic public relations shop.

Visitor records reveal that executives from these lobbying firms visited the White House at least 40 times in the past year. For instance, former Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), now a TikTok lobbyist at Crossroads Strategies, attended an event at the White House in December. The visits encompass significant events and small private meetings, showcasing TikTok’s expanding lobbying network within the White House.

Interestingly, TikTok’s top lobbyist Michael Beckerman once advised Rosemont Seneca Technology Partners (RSTP), a technology equity firm with close ties to Hunter Biden. Beckerman, who now lobbies the U.S. government on behalf of TikTok, joined RSTP sometime in late 2014 or early 2015.

While the Biden administration has recently supported a bill framed as a TikTok “ban,” critics argue it’s merely a smokescreen that doesn’t require the government to take any action against the app. Some believe the administration’s reluctance to take on TikTok stems from its value to Democratic political campaigns, especially in reaching young progressives for the 2024 presidential election. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has even warned that Democrats could “lose every voter under 35, forever” if TikTok is banned.

China expert Michael Sobolik from the American Foreign Policy Council points out that if the Biden administration appears susceptible to TikTok’s lobbying efforts, it might be due to their political dependence on the app. “Democratic operatives are already planning to push Biden’s reelection agenda on the Chinese-controlled app,” he adds.

While it’s uncertain whether TikTok was discussed during these visits to the White House, the number of contacts undoubtedly highlights the extensive influence of the company’s lobbying efforts. As the debate surrounding TikTok’s future in the U.S. unfolds, the public should be mindful of potential conflicts of interest and the influence of lobbying in shaping policy decisions.