Rep. Neal’s primary ads on wrong Facebook page raised ethics flag

  • RICHARD NEAL

  • U.S. Rep. Richard Neal speaks Aug. 23, 2018 at the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/28/2019 4:53:59 PM

EASTHAMPTON — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, appeared to violate House ethics rules last year by running two political ads on his official, government-funded Facebook page.

The ads, which were first reported by the outlet Roll Call, appear on Facebook’s recently launched “Ad Library” meant to provide transparency in political advertising. According to the Ad Library, the ads were active from Aug. 10 to Aug. 23 ahead of the state’s Sept. 4 Democratic primary, when Neal defeated challenger Tahirah Amatul-Wadud in a landslide. The Richard Neal for Congress Committee paid for the ads, according to Facebook.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Ethics states that official resources should not be used for “the drafting of campaign speeches, statements, press releases or literature.” The Committee on House Administration also states that a congressional member’s website or social media pages “may not include personal (outside of incidental references), political party (except for political party affiliations), or campaign information.”

One of the ads was seen fewer than 1,000 times, while the second was viewed between 1,000 and 5,000 times, according to Facebook. Of those who watched the ads, 97 percent were in the state of Massachusetts, Facebook’s metrics show.

In a statement, Neal campaign spokesman Peter Panos said that the campaign’s digital media vendor was mistakenly given access to the official Facebook page instead of the campaign’s Facebook page. The vendor then placed those ads on the night of Aug. 10, not knowing they had been placed on the official Facebook page, Panos said.

“No public resources were otherwise used to create, produce or distribute the ads; they were simply placed through the wrong page,” Panos said. “Campaign staff was made aware of the mistake on the morning of Saturday, August 11, and alerted the vendor, who immediately pulled the ads, and whose access to the official page was cut off.”

Panos said the ads were live on the official page for 12 hours and 14 minutes, and that the total cost for placing the ads was $54.91. He said that the campaign, not the House office, paid for the ads.

“The campaign has since reviewed its practices to ensure that similar errors do not recur,” Panos said.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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