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(Daily Caller)—Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott has differentiated himself from most of the Republican presidential field by not vocally supporting a TikTok ban while simultaneously receiving significant financial support from major stakeholders in the company.
While prominent Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates have supported banning TikTok, which is linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) through its parent company ByteDance, Scott has opted for a less aggressive approach and has not called for fully banning the app. At the same time, one of the main investors in ByteDance, as well as the executive chairman and founder of Oracle, which stores TikTok’s American data, both contributed large sums to organizations supporting Scott.
Jeffrey Yass contributed $600,000 to Opportunity Matters Fund Action, a political organization that is aligned with and supports Scott, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data. Yass’ investment firm Susquehanna International Group bought a significant stake in ByteDance in 2012, while his personal stake of 7% is valued at around $21 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“I’ve supported libertarian and free market principles my entire adult life,” Yass told the WSJ. “TikTok is about free speech and innovation, the epitome of libertarian and free market ideals. The idea of banning TikTok is an anathema to everything I believe.”
Yass is a major contributor to the Club for Growth, a conservative organization that mobilized Republican resistance to banning TikTok, according to the WSJ. He has given $61 million to the organization’s political spending division since 2010, which accounts for nearly one-fourth of its overall funding.
Opportunity Matters Fund, Inc., a PAC that also backs Scott, has received over $30 million in contributions since 2020 from Oracle Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison, according to FEC data. Oracle has a contract with TikTok to store the company’s American data. Scott called Ellison one of his “mentors” in May when he launched his presidential campaign.
In response to questions by the Daily Caller News Foundation on whether Scott would support a TikTok ban, his campaign declined to call for one. Instead, it shared Scott’s comment that he has “no problem whatsoever” with a TikTok ban, which he stated in an August Fox News interview.
Though Scott did not call for banning TikTok in the interview, or promise to do so if elected, Scott advocated for a plan to separate American children’s data from the CCP.
“We have to separate or segregate the communist Chinese party from our kids’ data,” Scott said in the interview. “We have to stop them from spying on our kids.”
However, China hawks have criticized Scott for his stance on TikTok when compared to other top Republican presidential candidates, according to Politico.
Other candidates, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, have all indicated support of a nationwide ban. However, Ramaswamy recently appeared to walk back his hard-line stance on TikTok.
“In retrospect, it was a little bit of an old-fashioned decision to say that there’s an entire mode of communicating with young people that I was going to turn off,” Ramaswamy said.
Former President Donald Trump also attempted to ban TikTok, but was stymied by federal courts. Scott cited such legal difficulties in his August Fox interview as evidence that “we can’t ban TikTok.”
DeSantis also received $2.5 million from Yass in February, according to data from his Florida PAC, which was named Friends of Ron DeSantis at the time. Yass has not contributed to Never Back Down, a federal PAC supporting DeSantis’ 2024 presidential bid.
Scott has backed more moderate solutions to potential national security concerns raised by TikTok, including voting to ban TikTok on government devices, and introducing a bill called the Know Your App Act to require applications to disclose what country they originate from.
China is using TikTok to spy on our children and invade their privacy. My Know Your App Act gives parents the tools they need to keep the CCP out of their homes and protect their kids.
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) July 20, 2023
The Biden administration plans to resume negotiations with TikTok despite its previous ultimatum that ByteDance must sell its stake in the company or face a potential ban, The Washington Post reported. The Beijing-based company maintains an internal CCP committee, and the U.S. Department of Justice characterized ByteDance as a “mouthpiece” for the CCP.
A former ByteDance executive has alleged that CCP members within the company had a “superuser” credential or “god credential” that enabled them to view all of the data the company obtained, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company also had a “backdoor channel” to gain U.S. user data, the former executive asserted.
ByteDance employees also used TikTok data to spy on American journalists who were covering the company in 2022, Forbes reported. Additionally, TikTok stored American TikTok creators’ and businesses’ financial information such as Social Security numbers and tax IDs in China, according to records obtained by Forbes.
Oracle, Susquehanna, TikTok and ByteDance did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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