When trading starts in Facebook’s initial public offering on Friday, it will be just another step the social-networking service has taken in its evolution from a hot Silicon Valley start-up to tech establishment.
The company started its first political action committee last fall and has quickly adapted to the art of Washington political giving: help those in power.
Federal Election Commission records show that during the first quarter of 2012, Facebook’s PAC has given to both parties, with a special focus on the congressional leadership and leaders of key committees.
Its recipients include House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.; and House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., each of whom has received $5,000 from the Facebook PAC. It also gave $2,500 to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Calif.
Among its other recipients is a lawmaker poised to take on a powerful role in the next Congress: Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who is in line to become the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee.
One recipient conspicuously missing from the donations list is Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who has yet to receive a dime from the Facebook PAC despite heading the Senate panel with primary jurisdiction over consumer privacy. Rockefeller has been critical of the company’s privacy practices and chastised the firm and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg last year for not doing enough to keep children off Facebook.
The Facebook PAC also donated to several of its home-state lawmakers in California, including Reps. Xavier Becerra (D); Mary Bono Mack (R); Judy Chu (D); Anna Eshoo (D); Darrell Issa (R); Zoe Lofgren (D); and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D).
So far, Zuckerberg has avoided giving directly to candidates himself but has donated $5,000 to the company’s PAC this year, along with an initial $5,000 contribution when Facebook launched its PAC last fall.
Other top Facebook officials, however, have given both to the Facebook PAC and directly to individual candidates during the 2011-12 campaign cycle. They include Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who has given primarily to Democratic candidates, and Vice President for Public Policy Joel Kaplan, who has given primarily to Republicans.
Even before it dipped its toe into political giving, Facebook began bulking up its lobbying presence in the nation’s capital. In the first quarter of 2012, Facebook spent $650,000 lobbying on such issues as privacy, patent reform, and online piracy legislation. It’s the most the company has ever spent on lobbying, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Still, the amount pales in comparison to its rival Google, which spent $5 million on lobbying during the same period, some of which could be due to the antitrust probe Google is facing at the Federal Trade Commission.
“Although [Facebook] has grown considerably as a player since it first came on the political scene about four years ago, it's still a relative pipsqueak in the corridors of power,” the Sunlight Foundation said in a blog posting on Thursday.