Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama Are ‘in a Relationship’

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It's complicated.Photo: Courtesy of the White House

Barack Obama will travel to Facebook's Palo Alto headquarters today (4:45 EDT) as Mark Zuckerberg hosts the president's first "town hall" meeting as an official candidate for reelection. Participants can post queries for the talk about "Shared Responsibility and Shared Prosperity," and Facebook will select the questions, which we predict will have nothing to do with secondary markets, the SEC, or what happens when the tech bubble goes public. Between the intimate dinner at John Doerr's house for Silicon Valley execs and the abortive attempt to hire Robert Gibbs as Zuckerberg's own press secretary, the town hall marks the latest cozying up between Facebook and the White House. (The Journal reported that plans to hire Gibbs "have fallen apart in the wake of a leak to the media that made a deal for him to join the company sound imminent.") Facebook's $351,000 in lobbying costs are dwarfed by the $5.2 million laid out by Google or the $6.9 million spent by Microsoft. But the tech industry has a habit of ignoring Washington until they need lawmakers on their side.

In Facebook's case, it's mutually beneficial. Obama, whose first reelection video featured a kid too young to vote in 2008, gets the chance to spread his campaign to Facebook's 600 million users and benefit from social media's link with youth, progress, and the Middle East revolution (i.e. Rock the Vote, the 2011 edition) — not to mention more campaign financing when Facebook finally does go public. And Zuckerberg, whose eagerness to crack the lucrative Chinese market was recently fictionalized in The Good Wife, gets Congress to go along with an American company playing by Chinese rules. Obama's name gets touted with a fast-growing, less-loathed business sector than Wall Street, and maybe the SEC will throw Zuckerberg a bone when it comes to the secondary markets. It's a win-win. For those two, at least.

Facebook Seeking Friends in Beltway [WSJ]
Why Tech Firms Find Allies Late in Washington [WSJ]
Google and Cisco to Join White House Effort for Entrepreneurs [Bloomberg]
Related: Mark Zuckerberg Wants Robert Gibbs to Become Facebook’s Own Press Secretary