New PAC adds to Facebook's political clout

This Jan. 3, 2011 file photo shows the exterior of Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

September 28, 2011 1:08:04 PM PDT
Palo Alto-based social networking giant Facebook is expanding its political footprint, confirming that it has filed the necessary paperwork to open a political action committee in advance of the 2012 elections.

The move is the latest in a series of maneuvers boosting the company's political profile in recent years, joining a steady rise in lobbying spending, several high-profile fundraisers and the failed statewide candidacy of one of its key officers for attorney general last year.

News of the Facebook PAC was confirmed earlier this week by The Hill, which noted that the company registered two domain names -- and -- that were intended for the committee's use.

Much like Microsoft and Google before it, Facebook's meteoric rise has been followed by a boost in political activity across the board.

Federal records show the company has more than tripled its federal lobbying spending since 2009, from about $200,000 to more than $730,000 this year. Much of Facebook's recent lobbying activity has focused on net neutrality and privacy issues.

The company also has added a number of key political players to its bench in recent months. Sheryl Sandberg, who served as chief of staff for the Treasury Department under President Bill Clinton, joined Facebook as chief operating officer in 2008. She recently held a fundraiser for President Barack Obama in San Jose, where Lady Gaga was among the attendees.

Other key political hires have included former George W. Bush administration official Joel Kaplan, who was hired to lead the company's Washington, D.C., offices, and a name that might be familiar to Californians: Tucker Bounds, who ran communications for former eBay CEO Meg Whitman's failed gubernatorial bid last year.

The company has expanded its footprint in Sacramento, too, spending more than $50,000 on lobbying through the first two quarters of this year and nearly $80,000 last year, when it hired is first state-level lobbyist.

Among the bills it lobbied were a measure that would have required stringent reporting for sex offenders on social networking sites and bills related to privacy and carpooling benefits.

The sex offender issue has come up for Facebook before, notably when the company's former chief privacy officer, Chris Kelly, ran for California attorney general last year. Kelly, who resigned his post at Facebook in order to run, often touted his experience working with law enforcement officials to bar sex offenders from the site. He ultimately placed third in the Democratic primary.

The company also plans to co-sponsor a debate between Republican presidential candidates early next year in New Hampshire.

Story courtesy of our media partners at California Watch (A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting)

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