Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder and Microsoft board member, funded a campaign to target Alabama conservatives with “Russian-inspired tactics” to try to convince them to vote against Republican Roy Moore in a 2017 Senate Special Election. Hoffman made the contribution through his for-profit political investment firm, Investing in Us, which has become one of the biggest spenders in progressive agenda politics.
Investing in Us mirrors the Silicon Valley angel investing strategy Hoffman is known for — the firm makes small investments in “grassroots” organizations with dedicated funders and a compelling vision. The structure gives Hoffman and his co-founder, Dmitri Mehlhorn, plausible deniability in case any of the organizations they finance blow up in their faces. Instead, they’re free to write checks to dozens of progressive organizations without accountability or oversight.
In 2017, Investing in Us contributed $750,000 to American Entertainment Technologies (AET), which paid $100,000 to hire New Knowledge, a left-wing social media research agency. New Knowledge authored the infamous “Project Birmingham Debrief,” detailing efforts to influence the 2017 Special Election, including a “false flag” operation that spread untrue information that said Moore was supported on social media by Russian bots. Hoffman apologized for contributing to the organization. According to the Washington Post:
Hoffman’s public apology follows news reports on the effort, known as Project Birmingham, which involved the creation of misleading Facebook pages to persuade Alabama conservatives to vote for somebody other than Moore.
One Project Birmingham tactic described in the document claimed backers had created false online evidence that a network of Russian automated accounts, called bots, were supporting Moore. In his statement, Hoffman called this report “the most disturbing aspect” of the disinformation effort. This and some other key details were first reported in the New York Times.
Hoffman’s apology has not prevented him from continuing to contribute to other controversial progressive organizations in the years since. MotiveAI, another firm credited with “with backing from billionaire LinkedIn chairman Reid Hoffman,” ran ads through associated limited liability companies that featured offensive content and disinformation. He also funded ACRONYM, a liberal dark money group behind Courier Newsroom, which creates progressive websites emulating local news outlets. The organization has been criticized for providing a hyper-partisan take on local news. ACRONYM is also known for launching Shadow, Inc., the political technology firm behind the Iowa Democratic caucus vote debacle in 2020.