Mar 21, 2024 - Technology

ByteDance investor Jeff Yass tops 2024 donor list with TikTok under fire

The TikTok logo is seen on a mobile device

The TikTok logo is seen on a mobile device. Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

ByteDance investor Jeff Yass is the biggest donor so far to outside spending groups in the 2024 election cycle, donating more than $46 million to conservative causes and PACs.

Why it matters: Yass beat out the second-highest donor by what Open Secrets reported is more than $11 million, while TikTok, owned by ByteDance, is currently at the center of a heated effort in Congress to crack down on the popular app.

  • Open Secrets defines outside spending as expenditures that are not coordinated with candidates' election committees.

By the numbers: Yass is estimated to have a 7% personal stake in ByteDance, roughly the equivalent of $21 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • Among his donations, Yass gave $10 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund, which aims to elect Republican candidates to the House, and $6 million to the conservative Protect Freedom PAC.
  • Yass also gave $16 million to Club for Growth, a conservative group that has worked to rally Republicans against a TikTok ban, per the Journal.
  • Notably, Yass has not donated to any of former President Trump's PACs, though he has given to PACs supporting some of his former rivals, like entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

State of play: Yass has been open about his opposition to banning TikTok.

  • "TikTok is about free speech and innovation, the epitome of libertarian and free market ideals. The idea of banning TikTok is an anathema to everything I believe," Yass told the Journal last year.

The intrigue: During his presidency, Trump spearheaded the initial effort to ban TikTok. Yet he appeared to reverse course earlier this month by arguing that banning TikTok would "double" Facebook's business.

  • Trump made the comments days after meeting with Yass at a Club for Growth donor group gathering in Florida, Reuters reported.
  • Trump has said he only met with Yass for a "few minutes" and the two did not discuss TikTok during the meeting.
  • Yet Trump's change of heart — coupled with the fact that his mounting legal fees are eating away at his campaign war chest — has sparked speculation that Trump could be trying to court Yass, Reuters reported.

Go deeper: TikTok ban timeline: Congress' yearslong case against ByteDance

Go deeper