The Guardian has the scoop:
In an apparent attempt to split the Democratic vote in a number of close races, the ads purported to come from an organization called America Progress Now (APN) and used socialist memes and rhetoric to urge leftwing voters to support Green party candidates.
Facebook was aware of the true identity of the advertiser – the conservative marketing firm Rally Forge – and the deceptive nature of the ads, documents seen by the Guardian show, but the company determined that they did not violate its policies.
Some sample ads:
You’d think that after Russia was caught doing something similar in 2016, Facebook would not have allowed such behavior. But it wasn’t until 2020, when Rally Forge set up a pro-Trump troll farm in Phoenix, that the company was banned from the site.
The Federal Election Commission was no better.
The non-partisan campaign finance watchdog group Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint against APN and subsequently sued the [FEC] in an attempt to force it to investigate the group. But in July 2020, the FEC voted to dismiss allegations that America Progress Now had violated federal law, after an individual, Evan Muhlstein, took responsibility for the ads and attributed the lack of proper disclosures and filings to his “inexperience”.
It is illegal to knowingly make false or fraudulent statements to federal agencies, and the FEC appears to have taken Muhlstein at his word that the ads were a sincere but novice attempt to support Green party candidates.
Although a spokesman for Turning Point USA claimed that neither that group nor the related Turning Point Action was involved with APN or its Facebook ads, The Guardian noted that APN was administered by three people who also manage TPUSA’s Facebook page. Rally Forge was TPUSA’s highest-paid contractor, having earned about $2 million since 2017 from Turning Point USA and Turning Point Action.
It’s no surprise that Turning Point would be involved with such sleazy operators. But what about Facebook? The site not only allowed the obvious fraud, it even cut the three APN administrators some slack over their violations of Facebook policy by maintaining two accounts. The site “decided to deactivate the three men’s extra accounts, but after the election and only after providing them with advance notice,” The Guardian reported.