FWIW: Senators sparring online over Israel, cease-fire

Also inside: the beginning of the end for one of online fundraisers’ favorite tactics

As the conflict in Israel and Palestine escalated this week, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill used the issue to either show off their pro-Israel bonafides or use their position to pressure parties involved on a cease-fire. In this week’s FWIW, we look into how Republican + Democratic senators responded to the conflict online, and also highlight news that a major political fundraising tactic may be coming to an end. 

But first…

Have you subscribed to FWIW Virginia yet? Every Thursday, we’re tracking the online race for control of the Commonwealth.

Read this week's FWIW VA

By the numbers

Here are the top political ad spenders on Google platforms last week, including YouTube: 

After Terry McAuliffe, the liberal Sixteen Thirty fund was the largest spender on Google ads last week. They ran video ads in support of HR 1, as well as some Spanish language videos backing Democratic senators for supporting COVID relief. 

Meanwhile, the conservative American Action Network is spending heavily on YouTube ads opposing HR 3, or what they call “Pelosi’s socialist drug plan.” They’re targeting a dozen swing-district House Democrats in English and Spanish.

Jim Lamon, the first major Republican candidate to attempt to challenge Sen. Mark Kelly in next year’s AZ U.S. Senate race, also began spending on Google advertising last week. 

On Facebook, there was little change since last week. Here are the top ten political and issue advocacy spenders on Facebook from May 9 to 15th:

Pro-Israel lobby AIPAC has started spending heavily on Facebook ads this week, attacking progressive Democrats and demanding unequivocal support for the Israel. The group doesn’t typically spend much money on Facebook ads, so this new campaign is a significant response to the ongoing conflict and the news cycle. We’ll have more on that below. 

Amazon also has dropped some heavy cash on Facebook ads in the past week, using an “Inside Amazon” page to launch a campaign highlighting their company’s $15 minimum wage and broadcast stories of happy employees. These ads are running nationwide, as well as in specific states like Tennessee and Georgia. 

...and finally, here are the top political ad spenders on Snapchat so far this year:

Republican Senators fire up their base with posts on Israel + Palestine

Violence in Israel and Palestine escalated over the past week, and dominated headlines across the globe. In DC, the conflict boiled over onto Capitol Hill, where Republicans and Democrats sprang into action to either unequivocally support the Israeli military or call for a ceasefire. 

From May 1st to May 18th, U.S. Senators published 121 posts on Facebook + Instagram that mention Israel, Palestine, Gaza, or Hamas. Republican senators made 93 of those posts, and Sen. Ted Cruz alone posted about the escalating conflict 28 times. 

Among all 100 senators, far and away the most-engaged post on Facebook was a simple one from Ted Cruz, while a Bernie Sanders post on Instagram dominated engagement on that platform. 

Read more + see the posts

The end of the match?

One of the most tried-and-true tactics in online political fundraising is the matching donation. Campaigns will send email blasts or run fundraising ads on Facebook claiming that if a donor gives any dollar amount, their gift will be doubled, tripled, or multiplied X1000 via a matching donation from a generous, always anonymous donor. 

Well, those of us who work in politics know that those matches are mostly bullsh*t and have no grounding in reality whatsoever. While everyone on both sides of the aisle has gotten away with this little white lie for quite some time, Lachlan Markay at AXIOS this week reported that the tactic may be coming to an end. The Department of Justice, in a case involving one of former President Trump’s scam PACs, emphasized the tactic and wrote that it constituted a “material misrepresentation.” 👀 Will fundraising consultants and digital firms continue to send emails with this in mind? Keep an eye on your inbox. 

That’s it for FWIW this week! But before we go, a programming note: Since next weekend is Memorial Day and the first big holiday where many of us will be venturing out from our pandemic isolation 🏝, we’ll be taking the week off. We’ll be back with our next issue on June 4th. 😎