Bad blood meets cold cash: Say, whatever happened to "Swifties Against Youngkin"?

(Photo by Rick Scuteri/Invision/AP)

To Terry McAuliffe, it must have seemed too good to check. Unfortunately for Democrats, he didn’t. McAuliffe and his campaign tried to make hay over Glenn Youngkin’s involvement in the fight over Taylor Swift’s publishing rights, in which he worked with former Swift business partner Scott Samuel “Scooter” Braun. They created “Swifties Against Youngkin,” complete with ad buys and merchandising, as The Verge reported on Tuesday:

On Tuesday, the McAulliffe campaign launched a series of Facebook, Instagram, and Google search ads highlighting his opponent Glenn Youngkin’s role in the controversial purchase of Taylor Swift’s master recordings in 2019. The buyout of Swift’s masters has been a point of bitter contention for the singer and her fans and could be an unexpected liability in the upcoming race.

Last year, Youngkin — the Republican nominee for Virginia governor — retired as co-CEO of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group before launching his 2021 gubernatorial bid. At Carlyle, Youngkin worked with the media executive Scooter Braun to acquire Big Machine Label Group, taking control of all of Swift’s master recordings and, for a time, refusing to sell them back to the singer. Several months later, Swift called on Carlyle to intervene in the deal, saying that the acquisition made it more difficult for her to perform her own music and produce her Netflix documentary named after her record Reputation. …

The McAuliffe five-figure ad buy will target voters who like Swift and engage with her content across Facebook and Instagram, according to the campaign. They will also place ads in Google search results for Virginians that search for her name.

The ads include images of Swift and Youngkin interlaid with the hashtag #WeStandWithTaylor, a popular tag used by fans and Swifties to show support throughout the artist’s battle with Braun. Last November, Braun sold the rights to a separate private equity firm in a deal believed to be worth more than $300 million, according to Variety.

That seemed too good to be true, right? Apparently it was, because two days later, Team McAuliffe and Virginia Democrats memory-holed the entire operation, according to Washingtonian:

This morning, the Twitter account belonging to the Democratic Party of Virginia pointed followers to the new items: “tis the damn season to get your swifties against youngkin merchandise,” the tweet read, with a link to its online store.

But then the merchandise was yanked from the website with no explanation. At first, the products disappeared but there was still a category listed for “Swifties Against Youngkin” items. Later, that too was scrubbed from the site. The Democratic Party of Virginia’s tweet about the products was also deleted.

So what happened? At the moment, it’s a mystery. A spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Virginia declined to comment, and Taylor Swift’s publicist has not yet responded to our queries.

What did happen? Well, a quick look at Open Secrets’ donor records shows one Scott Samuel “Scooter” Braun to be a major contributor to, um … Democrats. In the past few cycles, Braun appears to have donated well into six figures for candidates like Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Tammy Duckworth, among others. There doesn’t appear to be a single Republican among Braun’s recipients .. not even Youngkin.

Braun also donates heavily to state Democratic parties. For instance, he kicked in a $4,113 donation to the Democratic Party of Virginia almost exactly a year ago, which qualifies as this current election cycle in the commonwealth. At least for now there don’t appear to be any donations directly to McAuliffe, but then again, we don’t have access to any recent activity. It’s at least possible that McAuliffe and Virginia’s Democratic Party were using Braun’s money to demonize Youngkin for working with Braun himself.

And thus we get the memory-hole treatment:

(The tweeter later corrected the above to clarify that “ex” in the case meant ex-business partner, not ex-boyfriend.)

Perhaps Virginia Democrats can rescue the situation by launching a “Not-So-Swifty for Governor” campaign. At least that would be accurate.