TikTok's Democratic Consulting Firm Had Additional White House Meeting, Records Show

Firm hired by TikTok met with Biden economic officials as recently as January

May 4, 2023

A top executive at SKDK, a Democratic consulting firm working for TikTok, met with White House economic officials earlier this year amid the Chinese social media giant's fight to prevent a federal ban of its popular video app.

SKDK managing director Amy Brundage met on Jan. 17 with Caitlin Meloski, a special assistant to the National Economic Council, according to a new batch of White House visitor logs released on Sunday. It was the second White House meeting in as many months for SKDK executives, who were hired by TikTok to fight against legislative attempts to ban the app in the United States.

While the purpose of the White House meetings remains unclear, they come as TikTok's lobbyists and consultants have mounted a public relations blitz to kill regulation of the social media platform. There are growing calls to ban TikTok in the United States because of the company's links to the Chinese government. Intelligence officials warn that the Chinese government could use TikTok to promote pro-Beijing propaganda and to surveil Americans.

Brundage, who served as acting communications director in the Obama White House, did not respond to requests for comment. According to SKDK's website, Brundage advises clients both inside and outside Washington on ways to "develop and execute successful communications and message strategies." SKDK did not respond to a request for comment. It was Brundage's first visit to the White House, according to the official logs.

It is unclear when TikTok officially hired SKDK. Politico reported on March 9 that the firm was hired "in the last few months," but neither SKDK nor TikTok has provided any additional information on the arrangement. The firm was presumably brought in due to its extensive connections with the Biden administration—the firm's founding partner, Anita Dunn, is one of the president's closest advisers in the White House.

TikTok lobbyists and consultants have swarmed the White House in recent months, as the company tries to blunt a push to ban the social media app in the United States because of its China ties. Executives for firms that work for TikTok visited the White House at least 40 times over the past year, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

SKDK chief executive Doug Thornell and partner Oren Shur met with Meloski at the White House in December, the Free Beacon previously reported.

Jamaal Brown, a former Biden campaign official who works for TikTok, visited the White House multiple times last year. Former representative Joe Crowley (D., N.Y.), who lobbies for TikTok at Dentons' Public Policy, had four White House visits in 2022. Former Biden aide Ankit Desai, who operates a consulting firm with the founder of the Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, is also a registered lobbyist for TikTok. He had three White House meetings last year.

TikTok's lobbying onslaught appears to have had some success, as pressure to ban the app appears to have waned in recent months. The far-left members of Congress known as the "Squad" have rallied against any ban of the app, with Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.) claiming that Republicans want to ban it because of anti-Asian racism. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) in March came out against the ban and questioned intelligence officials' claims that the Chinese government could use the app to spy on Americans.

Democrats have openly acknowledged that TikTok is a boon to their party because the site's user base is young and liberal. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, who would oversee any regulation of TikTok, acknowledged the political ramifications of banning the platform.

"The politician in me thinks you're gonna literally lose every voter under 35, forever," Raimondo said in March.

Commerce official Matthew Axelrod attended an "ethics summit" last month with a TikTok lawyer who allegedly took part in the company's efforts to hunt down leaks about its ties to China.