Josh Mandel—the far-right, former Ohio state representative now running for Senate—has recently joined the chorus of conservatives railing against Big Tech. But before he turned against Silicon Valley, Mandel was a Facebook stock investor who made tens of thousands of dollars.
And even after he turned against Facebook, Mandel still owned at least some stock in the company.
In 2018, as the Ohio state treasurer at the time, Mandel posted $7,645 in capital gains income from his Facebook holdings, according to his most recent government financial disclosure. His 2017 disclosure also shows $1,335 in earnings from his stake in the social media giant, and his 2016 filing claimed a profit several times higher—$28,206. The disclosures also list joint holdings with his then-wife in Intel and Microsoft.
Like a number of right-wing conservatives, Mandel has waded into the ideological fight over the role tech companies play in political discourse. During a Feb. 26 interview on Fox News, he blamed the “censorship of conservatives” on “the arrogance out of Silicon Valley.”
“These big tech companies think they are above the law,” Mandel told the network. “Just like the Hollywood actors, they want to lecture those of us in the middle of the country in places like Youngstown and Toledo and Dayton. And, you know, seven days a week and twice on Sunday, I trust the instincts and the opinions of Joe and Jane Taxpayer in Ohio much more than some radical elitist in Silicon Valley or in Hollywood.”
But at the time of Mandel’s soliloquy, he actually still held Facebook stock. His campaign provided The Daily Beast with a transaction statement on Monday that shows Mandel sold 29 shares of Facebook—trading at $263.80—at a $7,650 profit 10 days later. A spokesperson for Mandel said the former state representative no longer holds a stake in the company as of that sale, but the campaign did not provide The Daily Beast with documentation confirming that claim.
“Josh has been very outspoken against Big Tech and their silencing of pro-Trump conservatives like Josh so he decided to dump all stock in Facebook,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.
Mandel’s 2017 disclosure also shows a stake in Alibaba Group Holdings, the parent company of Alibaba.com, China’s answer to Amazon and the 31st-largest company in the world, as ranked by Forbes. In a tweet on Feb. 16, Mandel urged supporters to “Combat China’s economic cheating.”
While it is unclear how many Facebook shares Mandel bought and sold over the years, he made more than $88,000 from the trades, including call options. According to Ben Edwards, a securities expert at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who reviewed Mandel’s disclosures, the amounts suggest that the company was among the more substantial holdings in Mandel’s financial portfolio.
“Although it’s impossible to know how large a position he held in Facebook at the time, it seems likely that it was one of his larger investments,” Edwards said. “The disclosure reveals income from options transactions for Facebook, Goldman Sachs, and a number of other financial services firms. If he was selling covered call options for extra income, it’s the sort of thing he’s only likely to do for relatively larger positions.”
There is no evidence that social media companies selectively censor conservative voices. Indeed, conservatives consistently outperform liberals in Facebook engagement, a fact reflected in posts from a Twitter account that tracks the ten top-performing Facebook posts daily.
In April, Twitter pulled a Mandel tweet for violating its rules against “hateful conduct.” Mandel had posted a poll question asking, “Of the various types of illegals flooding across the border, will more crimes be committed by... Muslim Terrorists” or “Mexican Gangbangers.”
After Twitter took down the tweet, Mandel blamed “ultra-liberal thugs in Silicon Valley,” drawing applause from a crowd gathered at a “Right to Life” event in Toledo.
In an interview following the event, Mandel said the offending tweet was the work of an aide, but that he was still “proud” of it.
While Mandel has taken up the mantle of slamming Big Tech, some of his biggest donors hail from Silicon Valley. David Blumberg, managing director of San Francisco-based venture capital group Blumberg Capital and a leading tech investor, along with Blumberg’s business partner Michael Armand, have donated a combined $21,600, Salon reported last month. And John Chambers, the former Cisco CEO who now heads up JC2 Ventures, has contributed $10,800 with his wife.
Mandel now finds himself in a cramped field of Republicans angling to replace outgoing Republican Sen. Rob Portman in 2022, including a prospective bid from J.D. Vance.
Vance has his own Big Tech hypocrisies. The self-styled blue collar, Yale Law-educated author has also spoken out against Big Tech recently, but it’s a $10 million super PAC donation from billionaire Peter Thiel that has fueled much of the speculation about a Vance bid for Senate.
Thiel is a co-founder of PayPal, an early investor in Facebook, and remains on the Facebook board of directors.