The Facebook senior executive in charge of the company’s public-policy arm “helped quarterback” his friend Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court, a new book reveals.
According to Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus’ new book Supreme Ambition: Brett Kavanaugh and the Conservative Takeover, released Friday, Facebook’s vice president of global public policy Joel Kaplan played an active role in shoring up support for the embattled nominee.
Kaplan’s personal support for Kavanaugh was previously known: The Facebook exec was spotted attending—in full view of cameras—Kavanaugh’s widely watched testimony in hearings over Christine Blasey-Ford’s accusations of sexual misconduct against the judge. Politico Playbook also reported at the time that Kaplan hosted a party celebrating the judge’s eventual confirmation to the high court.
But Marcus’ book further reveals that even before a vacancy opened up on the court, Kaplan played an active role in building a backing for the conservative justice.
According to the book, Kaplan “helped quarterback” the campaign by drumming up support for his friend and former George W. Bush White House colleague. The night before Justice Anthony Kennedy stepped down in June 2018, Kaplan, a senior Facebook executive, phoned “influential conservative lawyers” to ask if they would “be with Kavanaugh,” Marcus reports.
And following Blasey-Ford’s damning accusations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were Maryland high-school students, Kaplan remained squarely on the side of the judge. According to Marcus, the Facebook policy chief “stopped in briefly” to consult with Kavanaugh and the judge’s small inner-circle of advisers as the judge finished drafting the opening remarks he’d deliver hours later under oath denying Blasey-Ford’s allegations.
Kaplan’s deep public support for the conservative lawyer didn’t go unnoticed among staffers back at Facebook. The executive’s appearance during Kavanaugh’s testimony upset a number of Facebook employees, forcing Kaplan to acknowledge that he had made a mistake by not consulting with company brass before attending the Hill hearings.
And Kavanaugh’s overt connection to a top Facebook executive could pose a problem for the judge should any cases involving the social-media giant come before the high court.
However, “Unless his help snatched victory from the jaws of probable defeat, recusal will not be necessary in Facebook cases. The answer could differ if Kaplan were personally the party before the Supreme Court,” NYU Law Professor Stephen Gillers told The Daily Beast. “Often, people help with nominations and confirmations, including of lower court judges, and often they are lawyers affiliated with a law firm or company that will have cases before the judge. We trust that it will not influence the judge and hope we are right.”
Facebook itself has come under plenty of political fire in recent years, largely stemming from its use as a notoriously unfiltered vessel for divisive Russian propaganda aimed at interfering in U.S. elections. The social-media company was further ensnared in charges of Russian election interference when it was revealed that Trump-connected data firm Cambridge Analytica had collected—without consent—the personal data of millions of Facebook users in order to target them for political advertising.