John L. Micek: Senate candidates bash huge tech whereas proudly owning their inventory | Columnists

John L. Micek

When it comes to his take on big tech, Jeff Bartos didn’t mince his words.

“From the shadow bans on conservatives, the censorship of content on the Internet, the biased fact-checking and the pouring of millions of dollars into our elections, it is clearer than ever that big tech must be contained,” said Bartos, a Republican candidate for the US Senate from Pennsylvania, wrote on Twitter on July 1st.

But even as the Philadelphia suburban businessman parroted a popular Republican topic of conversation, he and his wife also enjoyed the financial rewards of investing in big tech titans like Alphabet Inc., which owns Google, and Apple .

Financial disclosure forms that Bartos submitted to the U.S. Senate as a prerequisite for his 2022 GOP nomination show that he and his wife collectively and individually hold hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Silicon Valley giants.

Bartos is not alone. Disclosure forms filed by Val Arkoosh, Bartos’ neighbor in heavily democratic Montgomery County, which is also running, similarly show individual and collective investments in Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft that amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Arkoosh is also a member of the Montgomery County’s Board of Commissioners.

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As they place themselves in the middle of one of the most watched U.S. Senate competitions in the country, the records underscore the tightrope walk the hopefuls walk as they talk harshly about the oversized influence of big tech, but also see how their wealth grows through their sizable Investment increases in size.

Both are part of a large field of Republican and Democratic candidates fighting to replace Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who will retire in 2022.

In an extensive interview, Bartos kept up his drum beat of criticism even when defending his investments.

“If anything, it proves that I’m not afraid to voice my beliefs, even if it goes against my financial interests,” he said. “I can advocate policies that I think are right. As a shareholder who owns stocks, I believe the company needs to change for the better. ”He added that it is the“ responsibility ”and“ duty ”of shareholders to make such criticisms.

Bartos, who accused social media sites like Twitter and Facebook of acting “like democratic super-PACs” for believing they are inappropriate conservative speech restrictions, says he would “support antitrust screening if these companies were to help don’t do this “. Take a good look at what they are doing and change their policies.

It’s a known complaint. Republican lawmakers across the country, including Pennsylvania, began to enforce laws that would penalize social media companies for monitoring content on their websites, the Associated Press reported.

The effort began not long after former President Donald Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook for making unsubstantiated claims of election fraud on the platforms.

Arkoosh, whose campaign turned down an interview request, said through a spokeswoman that she “believes that members of Congress who own or trade stocks pose a conflict of interest.”

Arkoosh “supports laws that prohibit members of Congress from owning and trading stocks and, if elected, would invest their legitimate assets in a blind trust fund.” spokeswoman Rachel Petri said in a statement emailed.

And although they are on opposite sides of the aisle, Arkoosh and Bartos’ respective criticisms of big tech reflect national trends that lead Republicans and Democrats to unite on an issue, while a bipartisan settlement on most issues is elusive at best and in the worst case it is impossible.

For example, in June a bipartisan cadre of lawmakers tabled a package of antitrust laws on Capitol Hill. This bipartisan spirit has not prevented the issue from becoming politicized in Pennsylvania or elsewhere.

In a statement, Brad Bainum, a spokesman for the progressive Super PAC American Bridge, said it was “classic politician behavior for ‘anti-big tech’ Jeff Bartos to own hundreds of thousands of shares in tech companies.

“If he somehow manages to get out of this chaotic GOP area code, it will be clear that Bartos cannot trust himself to represent Pennsylvania families in Washington,” said Bainum.

But since most Americans have the same skepticism despite replenishing their retirement portfolios with big tech stocks, one veteran observer said he doubts the average voter will share in that outrage.

“Even if you own shares in Alphabet, you can still say that Google should be restricted because it is anti-competitive,” said Republican adviser Christopher Nicholas. “Or there’s Amazon, that’s on both sides of the equation. (Political journalists) will notice, but Mr. and Mrs. Pennsylvania won’t be too concerned about it. “

Bartos seems to be betting on this on his way to a competitive campaign season.

“The reality is that (voters) analyze things, (they) understand them through the lens of common sense,” he said.

John L. Micek is the editor-in-chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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