After Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey got smacked around (digitally speaking) during this week's Senate hearing, perhaps the CEOs feel that having dozens of tech industry stalwarts serving as their 'inside man' in different parts of the incipient Biden administration (which, to be sure still only exists on paper) simply isn't enough. As the DoJ, in partnership with state AGs and the FCC, launches a wide-ranging anti-monopoly campaign against America's tech titans, Facebook is reportedly leading a new effort to beef up the industry's lobbying firepower inside the beltway.
According to the Washington Post, the new pro-tech political advocacy organization will work to convince lawmakers that Silicon Valley is a key component of America's economic engine, as well as a valuable bastion of free speech, and thus should not be trifled with.
In the model of Uber and Lyft's victory over California progressives (and working people) in the battle to pass Prop 22, which exempts the companies from classifying drivers as employees, the new group, called "American Edge", will use its generous funding to run ad campaigns and direct political spending to combat regulators trying to crack down on the tech industry.
All while Facebook and its peers continue to claim they're willing and able to collaborate with lawmakers on sensible regulations.
"American Edge's" board is slated to include several heavy hitters, from big-time lobbyists to former politicians, including Susana Martinez, former Republican governor of New Mexico, and former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania Chris Carney, among others, according to reports.
When approached by WaPo, FB told the reporters that it's "working with a diverse group of stakeholders to build support for the industry but didn't name other backers Amazon didn't respond to the newspaper's request for comment."
Since the election of President Trump led to the flood of scrutiny of big tech firms a few years back, Facebook has significantly scaled up its lobbying effort in Washington, spending more than $16.7 million last year to influence lawmakers and regulators, according to public records.
During the first three months of 2020, Facebook shelled out an additional $5.2 million, making it the 7h-biggest spender on lobbying across the entire US, all industries included.
Of course, Facebook has something of a fraught history when it comes to influencing public affairs. The company a few years back hired a GOP-linked PR firm called Definers Public Affairs that waged a "guerilla" campaign to deflect blame for Facebook's many scandals by bashing critics by linking them to Jewish billionaire George Soros. The company was roundly criticized for resorting to "antisemitic" tactics reminiscent of "far-right" conspiracy theorists.
Unlike the Definers fiasco, Facebook is putting 'American Edge' out front, arguing that any major restrictions against American tech firms could ultimately make Chinese firms more competitive.