Will Facebook’s Huge Lobbying Effort Succeed?

If Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) was slow in beginning major lobbying efforts, the company is definitely making up for lost time. Reports show that Facebook spent $2.45 million in Washington during the first quarter of 2013, a major jump from the previous year and the final quarter of 2012. Among the issues Facebook focused on were Internet regulation, data security and immigration.

During the same period in 2012, Facebook spent $650,000 on lobbying, making the leap to $2.45 million even more remarkable. The efforts in Washington mark a clear departure from the days when Facebook first opened office in the nation’s capital and offered congressional staffers lessons in using social media. These days, Facebook is involved in Political Action Committees supporting causes both conservative and liberal.

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While efforts to influence policy on Internet security and information sharing have a clear objective, Facebook’s lobbying for immigration reform might not have an immediately apparent motive. CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently started a non-profit organization aimed at changing immigration policies on a fundamental level. According to USA Today, the group includes Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and aims to bring in more immigrants educated for tech industry work…

Zuckerberg’s spending on the immigration non-profit is separate from Facebook’s considerable investment in lobbying Congress. The immigration reform would extend opportunities for visas to college-educated immigrants when they would have gone to family members of U.S. citizens previously. In that respect, the legislation would increase the aptitude of the workforce rather than enhance family bonds.

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To achieve these goals, Zuckerberg’s group has aired positive ads for Senators favoring the changes. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham are two politicians who have benefited from the generosity of the group. Facebook’s strategy to increase influence in Washington was likely inspired by the success of Google’s lobbying operation in recent years. Many observers point to Google’s presence on Capitol Hill as directly tied to its win in the major antitrust case brought against it. While about $25 million was spent by Google, billions were on the line.  If Facebook’s efforts are only half as successful, the company can have a huge impact on legislation in the coming years.

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