Flush with nearly half a million dollars in contributions from Amazon, Starbucks, and other local business heavies, the "No Tax on Jobs" campaign formed earlier this year to put a controversial question in front of Seattle voters: Should the "Amazon Tax," passed unanimously by the Seattle City Council in May to fund homelessness services, be repealed at the polls this November?
As it turned out, the city council dramatically reversed itself on June 12, making the "No Tax on Jobs" referendum campaign unnecessary. But not before that campaign purchased social media ads to push its signature-gathering efforts, including a reported $1,250 spent on Twitter ads.
According to Tim Ceis, whose firm CBE Strategic was paid $16,000 for political consulting by the "No Tax on Jobs" campaign, the reported purchase of $1,250 in Twitter ads was the responsibility of a CBE sub-vendor, the Pennsylvania-based Awareness Analytics Partners. (That firm promises they are "experts in understanding and utilizing influence, enhancing online messaging and delivering groundbreaking social media advertising results.")
The problem: Twitter, after a lengthy search of its records, says it cannot find any evidence that those "No Tax on Jobs" ads were actually purchased.
Here's what the "No Tax on Jobs" campaign reported to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission:
But Tom Tarantino, a spokesperson for Twitter, told me that after weeks of searching—as required by state and city law—Twitter has "found no evidence of direct purchase orders from 'Awareness Analytics Partners,' or the campaign committee, no relevant purchases relating to the disclosed address, nor were there any relevant campaigns with a total spend in the disclosed $1,250 amount. The campaign may have made an error in reporting their funds."
Back on August 8, when I asked Ceis for information on the "No Tax on Jobs" campaign's Twitter ads, he declined to tell me anything beyond confirming that Awareness Analytics Partners was the relevant subvendor. “We support disclosure, but I’m just not going to get into it," Ceis said. “You’ve got a thing you’re doing, but I’m not interested in helping out on that."
Today, asked again about the "No Tax on Jobs" campaign's Twitter ad spend, Ceis told me: "No comment."
Awareness Analytics Partners has not responded to requests for comment, either.
Kim Bradford, spokesperson for the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, said the "No Tax on Jobs" campaign needs to clear up this mystery. So did Wayne Barnett, director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.
"If the 'No Tax on Jobs' C4 shows that they paid $1,250 to Twitter, and if Twitter says they haven’t received $1,250 from the 'No Tax on Jobs' campaign, that is a problem under our elections code," Barnett said. "The public is entitled to accurate information on how campaign funds are spent.”
I've asked Phil Lloyd, the treasurer for the "No Tax on Jobs" campaign, whether he can offer any information beyond Ceis's "no comment."
Lloyd, a treasurer to numerous political campaigns, has been around this online ad disclosure block before—as I reported last month in the context of questions about how the campaign of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, which Lloyd worked for, had reported its online political ad spending.
He was not available to comment, but I'll provide an update if Lloyd's able to offer any clarity on this Twitter ad mystery.