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California billionaire apologizes for funding ‘Russian tactics’ in Alabama election, welcomes federal investigation

The California billionaire who reportedly funded Democratic operatives using “Russian tactics” in a “deceptive” misinformation campaign in Alabama’s 2017 special Senate election has admitted his ties to the efforts, apologizing and joining Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) in welcoming a federal investigation.

As reported by the Washington Post, Reid Hoffman apologized Wednesday for fronting the $100,000 used in the shadowy Democratic efforts, which have been dubbed “Project Birmingham.” He called this campaign “highly disturbing,” claiming he was not aware his money was being used for the efforts recently revealed by operatives via an internal report.

This comes after Facebook suspended the account of Jonathon Morgan and four others earlier this week for their alleged participation in the campaign. Hoffman is the cofounder of LinkedIn and was also an early Facebook investor.

Hoffman said Wednesday that he initially invested in American Engagement Technologies (AET) because they “sought to develop technical solutions to counteract fake news, bot armies, and other kinds of digital manipulation and disinformation,” while improving “civic engagement.”

While he said he had “no knowledge” that AET played a role in testing those tactics in Alabama, Hoffman said his lack of visibility in that organization does not “absolve” him of his “ethical responsibility to exercise adequate diligence in monitoring my investments.”

“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,” Hoffman outlined.

The Washington Post reported that Hoffman invested $750,000 in AET, some of which covered its newly discovered work in Alabama.

The publication also noted that Hoffman’s statement left key facts unaddressed, including a full accounting of everyone who crafted and executed the campaign.

These efforts were the subject of a presentation during the fall to a group of liberal technology experts who met in downtown Washington, D.C. to discuss electoral tactics, according to one of the attendees and documents from the meeting obtained by The Washington Post.

In his statement, Hoffman asserted, “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.”

The Washington Post wrote that “[a]fter Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016, Hoffman emerged as one of the most active and deep-pocketed backers of new efforts to elect Democrats.”

He has since spent millions of dollars on “dozens of organizations” supporting liberal politics and policies.

“The revelations call into question the full scope of Hoffman’s other political investments,” the Washington Post emphasized.

“I proudly support aggressive campaigning – both on the ground and digitally – and that is why we’ve funded organizations that help expand civic engagement,” Hoffman said. “But I want to be unequivocal: there is absolutely no place in our democracy for manipulating facts or using falsehoods to gain political advantage.”

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan told Yellowhammer News, “It is alarming and deeply disturbing that Democrats took part in this sham.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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