WalkAway campaign

The WalkAway campaign, also styled #WalkAway, is a social-media campaign that was launched ahead of the United States 2018 mid-term elections by Brandon Straka, a hairstylist from New York City.[2] The campaign encourages liberals to leave the Democratic Party.[2][3]

#WalkAway
FormationMay 26, 2018; 2 years ago (2018-05-26)
FounderBrandon Straka
PurposeAdvocacy and protests against social movement[1]
Location
  • United States & Canada
Websitewww.walkawaycampaign.com

Organization

The campaign is set up as a foundation and a PAC. The foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) organization defined as a Alliance/Advocacy Organizations within the Public, Society Benefit - Multipurpose and Other category. The IRS ruling year for tax exemption was 2019.[4] While no IRS annual return is on file for 2019, the 2018 filing shows contributions of $97,950 with officers reported as Brandon Straka, chairman; Maria Albanese, director, and Tracy Diaz, director.[5] As of October 28, 2020, the foundation was involved in an online fundraising campaign through classy.org which had raised nearly $125,000.[6] The PAC is set up as Walkaway Campaign PAC and shows receipts of $29,000 through the 2020 cycle. The FEC registration is C00718197 and the treasurer of the PAC is indicated as Dan Backer.[7]

Political activities

The WalkAway campaign held rallies and marches in attempts to get people to vote for President Donald Trump in cities prior to the 2020 United States presidential election. In August 2020, the WalkAway campaign held a rally in West Hollywood, California. Nearly 300 demonstrators attended, including Youtuber Joy Villa. Many held flags and signs supportive of Trump and critical of the Democratic Party.[8] On September 5, the campaign held a rally in Dallas, Texas. At the rally, WalkAway protesters and Black Lives Matter counter-protesters were involved in a violent scuffle, in which a WalkAway protester pushed a Black Lives Matter protester to the ground.[9] On October 3, 2020, Straka held a rally in Washington D.C.[10]

Controversy

News sources have debated the extent to which WalkAway is an example of astroturfing rather than a genuine grassroots movement. David A. Love of CNN condemned the campaign as "pure propaganda [and] a psychological operation."[11] The website Hamilton 68, which tracks Russia's interference on U.S. elections, reported that WalkAway was "connected to Kremlin-linked Russian bots to manipulate voters into thinking the movement was more popular and active that it actually was."[12]

Abby Ohlheiser of The Washington Post claimed that "[t]here’s little actual evidence to suggest that #WalkAway represents a mass conversion of millions – or even thousands – of Democrats" and contrasted the broad appeal of true viral videos with the "Conservative Internet viral" nature of the WalkAway video.[13] ThinkProgress characterized the WalkAway campaign as "a grifting operation," noting efforts by the organizers to sell dinner packages priced in the hundreds of dollars to march attendees.[14]

Slate journalist Mark Joseph Stern accused Straka of presenting royalty-free stock images from Shutterstock and claiming they were of people who had left the Democratic Party,[15] though Straka has denied that any such material originated from the WalkAway campaign. Fact-checking website Snopes stated that it could not determine whether this use of stock images had originated from campaign organizers.[16]

Straka has stated that WalkAway does not receive major donations and that "everything is grassroots support from Americans who send us $5 or $100."[12] As of May 2020, the Center for Responsive Politics reported that of the $20,104 donated to WalkAway in 2020, $7,521 were contributed by nine large ($200 or more) donors, of which Straka is one.[17][better source needed]

Soon after its founding in 2018, WalkAway received a $10,000 donation from Alex Jones and InfoWars.[18][19] Straka has stated that he is grateful for the donation.[20]

On January 8, 2021, Facebook closed the WalkAway group page, which had more than half a million followers at the time. The page was replaced with a message from Facebook saying the page had violated its terms of use.[21] The shutdown came in the wake of the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol, when Facebook and other social media platforms increased their enforcement of terms of service that ban the incitement of violence.[22]

See also

References

  1. ^ "About". #WalkAway Campaign. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  2. ^ a b FitSimons, Tim (August 21, 2018). "Meet Brandon Straka, a gay former liberal encouraging others to #WalkAway from Democrats". NBC News. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  3. ^ Richardson, Davis (September 13, 2018). "#WalkAway Founder Is Latest to Spread 'Facebook Ban' Disinformation". observer.com. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
  4. ^ "Walkaway Foundation". Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  5. ^ "Walkaway Foundation - NYS Attorney General - Charities". Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  6. ^ "Walkaway Foundation- Donate Now". Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  7. ^ "Walkaway Campaign PAC - OpenSecrets". Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  8. ^ Scott, Henry E. (August 8, 2020). "Nearly 300 #WalkAway Demonstrators Rally in West Hollywood to Support Trump". WEHOville. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  9. ^ "Activist Dominique Alexander, others detained following incident at Dallas WalkAway Campaign rally". WFAA. September 5, 2020.
  10. ^ Satterfield, Kolbie (October 3, 2020). "Political protests and rallies fill DC streets 1 month before election". WUSA9.
  11. ^ Love, David A. "Russian bots are using #WalkAway to try to wound Dems in midterms". CNN. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  12. ^ a b Suggs, Ernie. "#Walkaway movement to hold Atlanta event amid questions about support". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  13. ^ Ohlheiser, Abby (July 2, 2018). "Analysis | The #WalkAway meme is what happens when everything is viral and nothing matters". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  14. ^ Michel, Casey (October 16, 2018). "Pro-Trump #WalkAway March has all the signs of a grifting operation". ThinkProgress.
  15. ^ "These people who "walked away from the Democrats" are stock-photo models". Fast Company. July 24, 2018. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  16. ^ "FACT CHECK: Did the #WalkAway Campaign Use Stock Photographs for People It Claimed Left the Democratic Party?". Snopes.com. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  17. ^ "Walkaway Campaign PAC Summary | OpenSecrets". www.opensecrets.org. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  18. ^ Isaacs, Deanna (July 10, 2019). "A dramatic confrontation between the right-wing political group #WalkAway and Theater Wit ends up on YouTube". The Chicago Reader.
  19. ^ Fitzsimons, Tim (August 21, 2018). "Meet Brandon Straka, a gay former liberal encouraging others to #WalkAway from Democrats". NBC.
  20. ^ "Hi everyone, I'm Brandon Straka, founder of #WalkAway Campaign, a true grassroots movement..." Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  21. ^ "Conservative #WalkAway Facebook page removed along with hundreds of thousands of videos and followers". Washington Examiner. January 8, 2021. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
  22. ^ Fischer, Ashley Gold,Sara. "Facebook, Twitter and the long march toward banning Trump". Axios. Retrieved January 9, 2021.