ByteDance, TikTok's Chinese parent company, funneled six-figure contributions to nonprofits aligned with the congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses, disclosures show.
ByteDance donated $150,000 to both the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Foundation in December, its lobbying contribution report shows. It also transferred smaller amounts of $75,000 to the Asian Pacific Institute for Congressional Studies in December and $35,000 to the right-leaning Ripon Society last summer.
The Beijing-based company reported the donations as honoring congressional members on the nonprofits' aligned Black, Hispanic, and Asian Pacific American Caucuses, the disclosures show. Additionally, they honored the Ripon Society's congressional advisory board, which includes numerous Republican lawmakers.
ByteDance moved the cash as it faces national security concerns and ban threats in the United States. Critics say the Chinese government could access user data - such as browsing history and location - and push communist propaganda through the app.
It's unclear why ByteDance's most significant donations went to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. The company did not respond to a Fox News Digital inquiry on its donations, and the nonprofits who received cash did not respond to requests for comment.
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, established in 1976 by its caucus members, works to 'advance the global Black community by developing leaders, informing policy, and educating the public,' according to its website.
The foundation's board of directors now includes several Democratic politicians, including Reps. Terri Sewell of Alabama, Troy Carter of Louisiana, Colin Allred of Texas, and Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, meanwhile, was formed in 1978 by its caucus members. It now provides 'leadership, public service, and policy experiences to outstanding Latino/a/x students and young professionals, and convenes Members of Congress and other public officials, corporate executives, nonprofit advocates, and thought leaders to discuss issues facing the nation and the Hispanic community,' its website states.
The institute's board of directors includes Democratic Reps. Adriano Espaillat of New York, Ben Ray Luján of Nevada, Darren Soto of Florida, and Tony Cárdenas, Nanette Barragán, and Norma Torres of California. Its advisory council has several other federal politicians, such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Joaquin Castro of Texas.
ByteDance's nonprofit donations, which Sludge first reported, occurred as the company and its subsidiaries spent $5.4 million on lobbying activities in the U.S., its highest yearly amount yet. In 2021, the company had shelled out nearly $5.2 million on its influence campaign, its previous high.
'Our team in D.C. is focused on educating lawmakers about our company and our service, which is loved by millions of Americans and is creating economic opportunities for small businesses and individual creators,' a TikTok spokesperson told Fox News Digital in January. 'We plan to continue briefing members of Congress about the details of our robust and comprehensive plans to address their national security concerns.'
Fears surrounding the popular social media site grew following a report last year that showed a TikTok team in China accessed data of U.S. TikTok users, including two journalists. ByteDance fired four employees over the matter.
'The evidence that China is using TikTok to spy on and influence American citizens is clear, and it only keeps mounting as time goes on,' Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote in a Fox News Digital op-ed last month.
'Moreover, Beijing's influence on ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, is undeniable. Not only does Chinese law compel ByteDance to hand over data at a moment's notice, but the Chinese government also holds an ownership stake in the tech giant's key domestic subsidiary.'
An increasing number of states are at least partially banning TikTok. Congress prohibited TikTok's use on federal government devices in the omnibus bill President Biden signed into law. The U.S. armed forces have also banned TikTok on military devices.
While the effort to restrict TikTok has been bipartisan, Democrats still predominantly use the app on their personal devices. A States Newsroom analysis found that at least 32 members of Congress - all Democrats and one independent - had TikTok accounts as of early January. At least half of those members either 'currently sit or have previously served on committees dealing with foreign affairs, the U.S. military, investigations and national security.'
TikTok has reportedly offered to increase its transparency by granting U.S. officials oversight of its algorithms as part of a $1.5 billion reorganization of its U.S. operations in an attempt to avoid sweeping U.S. bans.
Fox News' Jessica Chasmar and Breck Dumas contributed to this report.