Tag Archives: Facebook

Is Ficker Using Public Financing to Promote His Law Practice?

By Adam Pagnucco.

County Executive candidate Robin Ficker is enrolled in the county’s public financing program and has announced that he has qualified for $231,185 in public matching funds.  Those funds are supposed to be used to finance his campaign for office.  But his Facebook ads raise the question of whether he is also using them to promote his law practice.

Ficker has run at least three political Facebook ads from his Robin Ficker Law Offices page.

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The content of the ads is unquestionably political.  But the Facebook page is a mixed bag.  It advertises his services as a criminal defense lawyer and has his business phone number.  It also offers a combination of political content and promotion of Ficker’s legal work.

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To be fair, Ficker’s ads do not advertise the legal posts.   But whenever a voter sees one of his political ads, they see “Robin Ficker Law Offices” at the top.

Maryland COMAR prohibits the use of campaign funds for “the personal use or the personal benefit of a candidate.”  Montgomery County COMCOR prohibits the use of public financing funds for “personal use.”  Whether Ficker is running afoul of these regulations is a matter for the authorities.  But if he wants to avoid this issue entirely, Ficker should establish a political Facebook page that is separate from his business.  That’s what other candidates do and Ficker should do the same.


Is This the Most Expensive Facebook Ad in MoCo Politics?

By Adam Pagnucco.

County Executive candidate David Blair wants you to know that the Washington Post has endorsed him.  Wait, that doesn’t do it justice.  He really, REALLY wants you to know that.  Why do we say so?  Because he may have purchased the most expensive Facebook ad in the history of MoCo politics to publicize it.

Most Facebook ads from state and local candidates cost less than a hundred bucks and run for a few days.  The more you pay, the bigger the audience, but there is considerable variability in exposure and targeting.  Still, a $50 ad on something good is a cheap way to get your name out there.  If every exposure costs two cents (a VERY rough guesstimate with a lot of spread), that fifty bucks could get you on 2,500 feeds and draw a few dozen interactions.

The exact stats on ad cost and engagements are available only to the advertisers.  But Facebook has a political ad tracker that reports stats in ballpark ranges.  Here’s a report of an ad that Council Member George Leventhal is running on his hilarious Avengers-themed campaign video.  He spent up to $100 on the ad and it showed up on 5,000-10,000 feeds.  (The actual people count will be less because some will have seen it more than once.)  This is a very typical ad in MoCo politics.

Now here is the ad Blair is running on his Post endorsement.  The report indicates that he spent between $10,000 and $50,000 and it showed up on more than a million feeds.

By the standards of MoCo politics, that’s unheard of.  Even David Trone rarely spends more than $1,000 on his Facebook ads.  We know of one ad – on men’s mental health – on which Trone spent between $1,000 and $5,000, receiving between 10,000 and 50,000 impressions.

So if you live in MoCo and have a Facebook account, we bet you know that David Blair has been endorsed by the Washington Post.  And if you didn’t, well… you need to log in!

Disclosure: Your author supports Roger Berliner and spends way too much time on Facebook.


Friedson Rules Social Media in District 1

By Adam Pagnucco.

Political handicapping is a very subjective exercise.  That said, there are a handful of objective measures that give clues to the state of a race: fundraising, endorsements, surrogates, communications (like number of mailers sent and TV time purchased), and more.  The jury is still out on the importance of social media followers.  But if Facebook followings matter at all, Andrew Friedson is waaaaaay ahead on that measure in the Council District 1 election.

As of Monday, September 11, here are the Facebook followers on each of the District 1 candidates’ campaign pages.

Andrew Friedson: 4,822

Pete Fosselman: 461

Bill Cook: 224

Reggie Oldak: 154

Other candidates: no pages

That’s right, Friedson has almost six times as many followers as his competitors COMBINED.  And they have all been running for months before he got in.

One reason why Facebook followers are discounted by many is that they don’t reflect actual voters in the relevant jurisdiction.  They can come from all over Planet Earth.  So your author asked Friedson to provide a geographic distribution of his Facebook followers.  According to data from his page, roughly two-thirds of Friedson’s followers reported cities of residence.  Of those, 1,490 lived in Maryland, 971 lived in MoCo and 462 lived in the District 1 areas of Bethesda, North Bethesda, Potomac and Kensington.  An additional 700 reported living in D.C., but some of those people could actually live in the Maryland suburbs.

This is an impressive campaign page following for someone who just declared for the race a month ago.  It reflects Friedson’s ability to tap into a number of networks, including his friends and family as a MoCo native; his college network from the University of Maryland (where he was a class President); his professional network from his time as an aide to Comptroller Peter Franchot and Congressional candidate David Trone; and his non-profit networks stemming from his service as a Board Member on the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the MoCo Collaboration Council for Children, Youth and Families.  These are real assets for any candidate for office.  And Friedson can leverage them through social media to raise money, spread his message and build name recognition in a way the other candidates can’t (yet) match.

Reggie Oldak has shown early success in the public campaign finance system but Andrew Friedson is off to a fast start.  Let the rest of the field beware!


Hogan Abuses Constituents on Facebook

By Adam Pagnucco.

Evidently frustrated by having his message eclipsed by the stunning behavior of President Donald Trump, thin-skinned Governor Larry Hogan is now lashing out at constituents on Facebook.

Hogan, who has blocked constituents from his Facebook page in the past, put up a post on redistricting on June 3.  The post linked to an article blasting General Assembly Democrats on a website run by right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham.  But some folks weren’t buying what Hogan was selling and that set the Governor off.

One person posted – politely – on President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate treaty.

Hogan accused her of “spouting off.”

Hogan wasn’t done, saying, “You obviously have no idea what you are talking about” and referring to her comments as an “off topic, incorrect rant.”

Another constituent expressed support for the General Assembly’s bill providing for multi-state redistricting, which Hogan vetoed.  Hogan said she was part of a “tiny minority” and encouraged her to “stop liking our page.”

And that wasn’t enough.  Hogan came back for more even as outraged constituents pushed back.

When another constituent asked about the Paris climate treaty, Hogan responded, “You are not only off topic but ill informed.”

When asked about the climate treaty again, Hogan said, “Yes. We are leading the nation on this subject. Pay attention.”

Facebook can be an unruly environment for political discussion.  Constituents are real, live people and don’t always restrict their remarks to the topics favored by politicians.  Elected officials and candidates have a right to ban racist, anti-Semitic, bigoted, sexist, profane or libelous commentary from their pages.  But none of the above comments fall into those categories.  None of them warrant the rude responses written under the Governor’s name.

Hogan owes these folks an apology.


Beware of Social Media Perception Bias

By Adam Pagnucco.

Politician X is a happy man.  His advocacy for Issues A, B and C is wildly popular.  His constituents adore him.  He basks in praise every single day, with only a few complaining misanthropes – likely from the other political party – who can be safely ignored.  He can do no wrong and is a lock for reelection.

How does he know this?  Because he has a few dozen friends on Facebook who tell him so!

Politician Y is a happy woman.  Her advocacy AGAINST issues A, B and C – the very things X is promoting – is also wildly popular.  Her constituents shower praise on her every ten minutes and there is no way she can lose.  Higher office surely beckons.

How does she know this?  Because her Facebook friends are just as adoring as X’s friends.

X’s world is just as real – and just as unreal – as Y’s world.  Look at two examples.

In Montgomery County, Robin Ficker’s term limits charter amendment is a hot local issue.  Those County Council Members who criticize it are lionized by the huge majority of their Facebook friends who weigh in.  Judging by their comments, there is no way that term limits will pass.  But go to Robin Ficker’s page and the world changes.  He is surrounded by dozens of people – sometimes much more when he runs ads – who encourage him to keep it up.  Judging by what is said on Ficker’s page, the voters will surely approve term limits by an overwhelming margin.

It happened again at the state level when Governor Larry Hogan issued an Executive Order mandating that public schools start after Labor Day.  Critics of the order who based their opposition primarily on educational considerations were egged on by three-quarters or more of their Facebook friends who commented.  But the Facebook pages of Hogan and the policy’s original architect, Comptroller Peter Franchot, swarmed with supporters who celebrated the order.  Each side is convinced they’re right.  Each side is convinced they will be vindicated – both on the policy merits and politically – in the end.  And each side is backed up by enthusiastic supporters, so how can either of them be wrong?

Why does this happen?

Social media is a great tool for political communications, but it is subject to two forms of bias that can mislead politicians.

  1. Friend Bias

Politicians’ Facebook pages almost never contain representative samples of the public.  For the most part, Facebook friends or fans are personal friends and acquaintances mixed with people who are inclined to support the politician.  Those who are indifferent or hostile to the politician, but still vote, are much less likely to enroll on the politician’s page.  The effect is akin to an elementary school play, in which the audience is comprised of parents and relatives of the children who are performing.  Those children can do no wrong!  Friend bias can be overcome to an extent by running ads from a fan page, as this will attract viewers who do not have a relationship with the politician.  But don’t run an ad unless you’re prepared for what the outside world thinks!

  1. Comment Bias

While a relatively small number of loud voices tend to dominate social media, the vast majority of folks don’t like to fight in public.  So when Politician Y puts up a political statement, those who agree will say “Yes!” and those who don’t will be more likely to stay silent.  The latter people simply don’t want to be flamed and drawn into name-calling, shaming or other nastiness.  Some of them may have another matter before the politician and don’t want to risk retaliation.  The combination of friend bias and comment bias creates a powerful illusion of mass approval even when it’s not there.

This is high-tech tribalism.  Every politician leads a tribe – the few dozen (or for the higher-ranking ones, several hundred) people who publicly agree with them on almost everything.  This tribalism is so rigid that disagreeing tribes are barely acknowledged to exist.  When they are, they are depicted as misguided and inferior.  Politicians who lap up public adulation like cats who lap up milk love it.  And some are deceived by it.

There’s a lesson to be learned here.  Social media is a valuable political, communication and organizing tool that is still evolving.  If you can use it to get a couple thousand people to support your cause – and there are examples out there – good for you.  But if it results in the same group of a few dozen people always saying Yes to what you’re proposing, don’t believe that it represents genuine public opinion.  If you do, then you’re vulnerable to REAL public opinion catching up with you!


Mizeur Says Show Me the Money


Heather Mizeur posted on her own Facebook page, as well as the Draft Heather page, the fundraising appeal shown above. This is a good fundraising and social media gimmick. While reminding us she’s in the mix, she’s also raising funds.

Her supporters love it, as the many likes, positive comments, and shares demonstrate. Since Heather’s own page has over 21,000 likes as opposed to the over 900 likes on the Draft Mizeur for Senate, I can see why she posted it to both. (There are currently only seven “likes” currently on the Draft page.)

The only negative wrinkle is that any doubt as to whether Heather Mizeur was behind the effort to draft Heather Mizeur has been dispelled. The draft page is also conveniently titled “Heather for Senate” for when she decides that it is formally time to jump in the race–or switch to a congressional run in one of the open seats.


Facebook for Frazier

Well, the honeymoon for Gov. Larry Hogan–with Republicans, not Democrats–was short. Republican activists are already accusing Gov. Hogan of usurpation of the Maryland Constitution on Facebook:


Otto attacks the Left too:


Uh oh, he’s on to us. Opposition to Frazier is all a part of the global plot to get the Carroll County Republican Central Committee to choose a socialist to fill Getty’s seat.


How Kotmair explains Frazier’s spanking in the Republican primary in her bid for renomination to her seat on the commission is unclear. More left-wing fraud? Or is it pinko infiltration?

Finally, we also have good old-fashioned passive aggressive:


Good news, JoAnn. It’s definitely you.