Democrats on the House Oversight Committee want social media company Parler to turn over a list of investors and creditors following reports claiming that former President Donald Trump was offered shares in the firm.
“These negotiations reportedly occurred while President Trump was still in office,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, chairwoman of the committee, wrote in a letter to Jeffrey Wernick, Parler’s COO.
The demand comes as the company is struggling to re-launch after being taken offline by Amazon Web Services and its app removed from Apple and Google stores following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol Building. Those companies justified their actions by claiming that rioters primarily used Parler to pre-plan their assault, though Justice Department arrest reports noted that discussions took place on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were far more frequent.
In her letter, Maloney wrote that she is seeking a “shareholder registered” listing of every investor and stakeholder to include “individuals and entities with direct or indirect ownership interests.” Also, she wants to know the names of entities or individuals to whom Parler owes more than $10,000, “including the type of debt funding, amount owed, maturity, and applicable interest rate.”
“Since the attacks, numerous Parler users have been arrested and charged for their roles, with the Department of Justice citing in several instances the threats that individuals made through Parler in the days leading up to and following the attack,” Maloney wrote.
“In addition, Parler reportedly allowed Russian disinformation to flourish on its platform prior to the November 2020 election, facilitating Russia’s campaign to sow chaos in the American electorate. Although similar disinformation was removed by other social media platforms, it was allowed to remain on Parler,” she claimed.
The letter then cited a report from Buzzfeed News in which the outlet claimed to have seen documents that show Parler executives offered Trump a 40 percent stake if he would begin posting exclusively to the platform, though the deal never materialized.
“These negotiations reportedly occurred while President Trump was still in office, which experts have warned raise legal concerns regarding anti-bribery laws,” Maloney wrote, though her letter did not elaborate on those concerns.
The letter comes after the struggling platform fired its former CEO, John Matze, last week, reportedly over disagreements regarding the vision for the company.
“Over the past few months, I’ve met constant resistance to my product vision, my strong belief in free speech, and my view of how the Parler site should be managed. For example, I advocated for more product stability and what I believe is a more effective approach to content moderation,” Matze said in a statement following his termination.
But his explanation was quickly refuted by conservative pundit and Parler co-owner Dan Bongino, who said that actually, the “free speech vision” was his and those still with the company.
“Here’s what really happened. We were the ones, in fact, fighting to get Parler back up. It was some really bad decisions made by people on the inside…there were two separate visions for the company…but this free speech vision, that was ours,” Bongino explained in a video. “The other owners of the company…the relationship with Parler and the CEO did not work out because the CEO’s vision was not ours…we needed to get up and fight back. Some terrible decisions were made in the past that led us to getting put down by Amazon and others.
“It was me and the two other owners that were constantly on the side that this site was going to be a free speech platform or it was gonna be nothing,” he added.
Trump never joined Parler, but his Office of the Former President did open an account on Twitter alternative Telegram.
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