Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Michigan, held up a piece of paper during Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony on Wednesday with a post from Hillsdale College alumnus Aric Nesbitt that Facebook had prevented from being boosted as an advertisement on the platform.
Zuckerberg said he was unfamiliar with Nesbitt’s case when Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, also brought up Nesbitt’s case, but responded to questions at another point during his testimony that “there is absolutely no directive” to have “any kind of bias” in relaying information on Facebook.
Nesbitt, who graduated in December 2001, left as Michigan’s lottery commissioner on March 24 to try his luck running for the 26th District state senate seat. With Gov. Rick Snyder term-limited and in his final year, Nesbitt said he is seeking to return to Michigan’s legislative branch and keep the state’s “comeback” heading in the right direction.
“Over the past eight years, Michigan has made a lot of progress,” Nesbitt told The Collegian. “We’ve been cutting taxes and balancing budgets, but I think there is a lot of work still to do to protect Michigan’s comeback.”
Nesbitt, though, hit a snag on Friday when Facebook blocked him from boosting a post announcing his campaign, making national news. The incident comes following several other complaints from conservatives that Facebook is censoring their content on its platform.
“I’m proud to announce my candidacy for State Senate,” Nesbitt’s post read. “Lansing needs conservative, West Michigan values, and as our next State Senator, I will work to strengthen our economy, limit government, lower our auto insurance rates, balance the budget, stop sanctuary cities, pay down government debt and be a Pro-Life, Pro-Second Amendment leader for the people.”
When he tried to pay for the ad, however, immediately a message popped up, saying the ad “wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow our Advertising Policies. We don’t allow ads that contain shocking, disrespectful or sensational content, including ads that depict violence or threats of violence.”
A Facebook representative made an apology in a statement to the Daily Caller.
“We’re very sorry about this mistake,” the representative said. “This ad was incorrectly disapproved by our automated systems. We approved it as soon as this error was brought to our attention and have turned off the automation that caused the error in the first place.”
Nesbitt said he was “flabbergasted” by the message, expressing concern for the effects social media censorship could have on elections.
“I don’t know what was offensive or profane about a conservative message of less taxes, lowering automotive insurance costs, and defending the right to life,” Nesbitt said. “What triggered the automation? Case after case, they say it’s a mistake, but what is in our language is a mistake? There needs to be some transparency here.”
The 26th District covers Van Buren and Allegan counties, along with Gaines Township and the City of Kentwood in Kent County. The current state senator, Tonya Schuitmaker, is term limited. Allegan County Clerk Bob Genetski, a former state representative in the area, is also vying for the Republican nomination for the seat.
Nesbitt, who graduated in December 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and who Hillsdale recognized with a distinguished alumnus award in the fall, had an interest in politics even before minoring in it at Hillsdale. The Lawton, Michigan, native, who lives just down the street from where he grew up on his family’s sixth-generation family dairy and grape farm, has listened to talk radio since at least the eighth grade and worked as a page in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., in high school.
At Hillsdale, Nesbitt served on the Student Federation, was president for the Praxis political economy club, and participated in the International Club and College Republicans.
Nesbitt also partook in the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Programming, spending his days working at Citizens Against Government Waste, a conservative nonprofit, and his evenings in the Republican National Committee’s phone bank. During his final semester, he also interned in the Michigan House.
Politics Department chairman Mickey Craig has stayed in close contact with Nesbitt since he graduated. Craig described him as bright and hard working with “a lot of hustle.”
“I know he’s a smart guy with good character,” Craig said. “I think he understands what Republican liberty and free government is. He’s very good at understanding how to try to make sure things are going in a conservative direction.”
After Hillsdale, he worked for Tim Walberg, R-Michigan, and Tim Murphy, R-Pennsylvania, before earning his master’s degree in international business from the Norwegian School of Economics.
Nesbitt played a large role in several of Michigan’s conservative reforms once elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2010, before he began serving in Snyder’s cabinet. Nesbitt, who served as the House majority leader during his last term and as the House Republican campaign chair in 2014 and 2016, led efforts to balance budgets, lower the state’s debt by $20 billion, eliminate nearly 2,300 government rules and regulations, and cut taxes.
“I have a proven record of conservative results,” Nesbitt said. “I was never raised to stand on the sidelines, but to jump in the fire for the citizens of West Michigan.”
When Nesbitt accepted the position as lottery commissioner in February 2017, he was the youngest member of Snyder’s cabinet and the youngest lottery commissioner in Michigan and national history. In 2017, Nesbitt oversaw a record-breaking $924 million added to the School Aid Fund.
“Aric’s leadership role at the Michigan Lottery demonstrated his long-standing commitment to serving the people of Michigan,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement. “I thank Aric for his dedicated service and wish him well in all future endeavors.”
Nesbitt said he is thankful for the foundations he learned while attending Hillsdale College and hopes to bring those principles to Lansing.
“Turning our principles and common-sense solutions into a reality has always been my focus,” he said. “With your support, I will take the principles I learned growing up on the farm, at Hillsdale College, and throughout life, and make them a reality in building a better, brighter future for the hardworking taxpayers of West Michigan.”