Facebook Forms a PAC [Updated]


Because Facebook doesn't have enough influence already, the company has decided to form a political action committee. As a spokesman explained to The Hill on Monday:

"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."

Facebook has already spent $500,000 on lobbying this year in an effort "to explain how our service works, as well as the important actions we take to protect people who use our service and promote the value of innovation to our economy." The formation of the PAC will allow the company to contribute money directly to candidates, although executives declined to offer details on who they planned to support.

Facebook first got into the political game only two years ago, when they spent $200,000 on lobbying, with the hiring of former congressional staffer Adam Conner, but soon added political players like Clinton White House official Sheryl Sanberg, who became COO, and George W. Bush's deputy chief of staff Joel Kaplan, who became the head of Facebook's Washington office in June. Moves like this put Facebook on the same playing field as Apple and Google, but show that Zuckerberg's tech giant would like to avoid the FTC antitrust headaches that have plagued both Google and Microsoft, which once spent as much as $9 million annually through its PAC.

The social network has been careful about revealing political leanings, learning from its forebears:

The perception that Google was sympathetic toward Democrats hasn’t helped since the Republicans surged in 2010, with House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Senate Antitrust panel ranking member Mike Lee (R-Utah) among those who have targeted the search giant for questioning.

Still, Facebook remains a darling on both sides of the aisle, hosting events for candidates from both parties and drawing praise from the House Republican leadership, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.), among others. 

Potential political issues, as predicted by TechCrunch, include foreign regulations abroad and copyright concerns. But most notable, as the company has already seen, is the issue of privacy, and the idea that the government could put regulations on the ways in which Internet companies collect and share personal information. That, of course, is Zuckerberg's main project, and as he demonstrated on stage last week, he hopes to further normalize sharing and dictate what online privacy means moving forward. Forming a PAC is, in part, acknowledging the need for bipartisan allies in that struggle.

This post has been updated with additional information.

Facebook to form its own PAC to back political candidates [The Hill]
Facebook To Form Its Own Political Action Committee [TechCrunch]
Facebook raises its game in Washington by forming its own PAC [The Hill]
In Turn to Politics, Facebook Starts a PAC [NYT]