Facebook Creates a Political Action Committee

The social networking giant Facebook sets up a political action committee called FB PAC.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced setting up a political action committee. Photo: Jolie O'Dell/Flickr

“FB PAC will give our employees a way to make their voice heard in the political process by supporting candidates who share our goals of promoting the value of innovation to our economy while giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” a Facebook spokesperson said to the Hill.

It was reported earlier that Facebook had that it had registered the domain names FBPAC.org and FBPAC.us. Created by Mark Zuckerberg in his Harvard dorm room in 2004, Facebook is still a relative newcomer to both the business world and Capitol Hill.

But it has joined Apple and Google as a firm that defines the digital economy to policymakers. Facebook only began lobbying in 2009, hiring former congressional staffer Adam Conner to serve as evangelist to lawmakers and political campaigns.

Forming a PAC is the latest of several steps Facebook has taken to expand its presence and deepen its ties to the nation’s capital.

Facebook has already spent $550,000 on lobbying during this fiscal year, up from $350,000 in 2010. Facebook’s lobbying is not impressive in comparison to Google and Microsoft, both of which have spent already about $3.5 million this fiscal year lobbying.

The antitrust hearing last week, which featured Google CEO Eric Schmidt, demonstrated the advantages of having friends in high places; several of the panel’s Democratic members chose not to question Schmidt about the hearing’s topic and instead spent their time praising the firm for innovation.

On Monday Facebook hosted a town hall meeting for up and coming Republican representatives, including Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, and Paul Ryan, chair of the House budget committee.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Facebook’s quick growth had created “a need to protect itself from government policies, such as potentially tough online privacy regulations,” and the paper paints FB PAC as the next step in the company’s political evolution.

Company-based Pacs are common means for US corporations which enable them to donate $5,000 to candidates per election and a further $15,000 each year to national parties. Google established its own Pac in 2006, which in the 2010 midterm elections distributed more than $300,000 in donations to candidates.

Facebook has recently expanded its political PR efforts inWashington. In June, Joe Lockhart – a former press secretary in the Clinton White House – became vice president of global communications at Facebook.

The company’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, was previously chief of staff toClinton’s Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, while Facebook’sWashingtonDCoffice is headed by Joel Kaplan, at one time deputy chief of staff for President Bush. Recently it has also hired two Obama administration staff members.

Facebook also announced that it would offer small businesses up to $10 million in free advertisements on its site. Every business that joins and redeems a $50 credit will be entered into a contest to get more check-ins and likes.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy and we believe that Facebook can be a tremendous tool to fuel their growth and success,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer, said in a statement published in Monday’s Politico Playbook.

Consumer privacy is a hot topic on Capitol Hill these days, and Facebook has been criticized in the past for what some believe is a cavalier attitude toward the issue. Zuckerberg argues consumers have shown a strong preference for sharing more information and he is simply trying to create tools to enable that.

As recently as this week, the firm rolled out a host of changes to profiles and how information is shared by users, drawing mostly praise from the online community, in contrast to previous site changes. [via Huff Post, The Hill, Global Post and Guardian]

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