Analysis Breaking Exclusive

Exclusive: ‘dark money’ buying Facebook ads for pro-Graham slate in Unite EC elections

Anonymous group paying for ads touting candidates supportive of general secretary accused of trying to destroy evidence in misogyny and bullying complaints against husband

Unaccountable cash is at play in the elections for the executive of the Unite union.

An anonymised page with no named administrators or followers has been ploughing cash into advertising to support candidates on the slate backing the union’s general secretary. Graham has been accused of trying to have evidence destroyed in bullying and misogyny complaints against her husband, who now holds a senior role in her team despite being on a final warning from Unite for his conduct.

The page, named ‘Executive Council Elections’ (ECE), was originally set up last December under the name ‘The Manifesto’ and is being used to get around Facebook’s advertising transparency by naming itself as the funder of a series of ads but providing no detail about who owns or runs the page:

The page has funded a series of ads across geographies and sectors in support of candidates backing Graham, as the page’s advertising activity section reveals:

With no accountability or transparency, the spending – relatively modest so far but the election has several weeks to run and turnouts are often low so large spending is not needed for large influence – amounts to the use of ‘dark money’ to attempt to influence a democratic election in support of a general secretary whose record has been criticised without meaningful response from the union beyond smears.

Apparently ineligible candidates who are supportive of her – and some who have posted racist comments – have been allowed to stand and Irish trade unionist legend and cancer survivor Brendan Ogle, who did not support her in the general secretary election, was ‘disgustinglyhounded out of his position to outrage from Irish members and branches.

One senior Graham ally, Tony Seaman, has been allowed to stand even though the union agreed he had made racist comments – and despite questions over the funding of his employment with the contractor on the Unite conference centre project.

Skwawkbox view:

While Ms Graham has tight control of the union’s organisers, her influence over lay members and their democracy is less concrete. These ads appear to be aimed at helping her to gain that control and members have a right to know who is paying for them and should be concerned at this untransparent attempt to influence them.

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