In the middle of the controversy generated by his “accidental” endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who thanks to the social network’s upcoming Initial Public Offering (IPO) may become one of the country’s richest men, could also be on his way of becoming one of the most influential ones.
Facebook’s recently founded Political Action Committee (PAC) announced a hefty inaugural fundraising of $170,000, mostly from the company’s own board of directors and employees; and though no money has yet been committed to a particular candidate, the fundraising history of some of the PAC’s most prominent donors suggests the eventual donations would be evenly split between Democratic and Republican candidates in 2012.
So far, prominent Facebook board members and employees have distributed their political donations among the following candidates (increasing order):
• Mitt Romney for President: $2,500 from Mark Andreessen, a Facebook board member and co-founder of Netscape who along partner Ben Horowitz has raised a total of $2.7 billion in less than three years for web giants such as Twitter, Groupon, and Zynga.
• Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): $5,000 from Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and former Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google.
• Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): $10,000 from Sandberg and Chris Huges, Facebook co-founder and former coordinator of My.BarackObama.com.
• The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC): $10,000 from Huges to elect Democrats to the United States House of Representatives.
• President Barack Obama: $20,500 from Sandberg, Huges, as well as Sean Parker (a Facebook board member who co-founded Napster and Plaxo) and Reid Hoffmann (co-founder of LinkedIn).
• National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC): $30,800 from Andreessen to elect Republican candidates to the United States Senate.
• Restore Our Future (Pro Mitt Romney PAC): $50,000 from Andreessen.
• Democratic National Committee (DNC): $108,200 from Parker, Sandberg, Hoffmann, and Huges to support national, state, and local Democratic candidates.
• Endorse Liberty (Pro Ron Paul PAC): $900,000 from Peter Thiel, an early Facebook investor and founder of PayPal.
Facebook, which has ramped up its lobbying efforts amid growing Internet privacy and security issues at home and abroad, is setting precedent among an expanding crop of technology companies such as Google ($5.8 million spent lobbying during the first three quarters of 2011) which thanks to their unprecedented growth in revenue and politically empowered user bases have been able to influence policy outcomes in the online arena, most recently and notably through the "shelving" of the Stop Online Piracy Act thanks to a dramatic web blackout last January.
Photo Credit: Andrew Feinberg