While much of the buzz around Facebook has been geographically centered on Wall Street, perhaps just as lucrative for the company are the ties it’s creating in Washington. The social media giant has upped its lobbying game, spending a record amount on federal lobbying in the first quarter of 2012. But everyone knows that the D.C. influence industry goes beyond mere lobbying and Facebook has made inroads elsewhere in the capital, including with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Despite its innocuous sounding name, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the mother of all outside spending groups. It surpassed all other such groups in 2010 to run ads supporting big business candidates for Congress. The Chamber is a 501(c)(6) tax exempt entity and it doesn’t disclose its spending efforts. We do know that its budget is 100%-corporate funded.

Corporate giants like Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, News Corporation, AENTA, ExxonMobil, and foreign companies like India’s Tata Group and the Bahrain Petroleum Company supply the money that funds the millions of dollars the Chamber uses for secret attack ads, mainly promoting Republican candidates. The Chamber also uses this corporate money to lobby aggressively against action on climate change, to oppose equal pay for women, and against health insurance for children. In fact, the Chamber is so opposed to action to curb carbon emissions that the group proposed a “Scopes Monkey Trial” to challenge the idea of climate change (the group later back tracked off this comment, but continued denouncing the science underpinning global warming in regulatory letters to the government.

So what’s Facebook doing palling around with the Chamber?

Earlier this week, Facebook partnered with the Chamber and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) to host events related to National Small Business Week. Facebook representatives appeared at America’s Small Business Summit, which was hosted by the Chamber.

In a press release, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandburg said that small businesses were important to Facebook: “Our goal is to give small businesses a boost by helping them find customers the best way possible – through recommendations from friends.  We’re proud to be working with the NFIB and U.S. Chamber in this effort.”

Meanwhile, the Chamber had some nice things to say about Facebook:

“Partnering with Facebook offers the Chamber’s small business members an opportunity to leverage one of the world’s most popular communities to connect with current and prospective customers,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  “As small businesses look for new ways to remain competitive, the Chamber will continue to provide innovative solutions for succeeding in an ever-evolving economy.”

Facebook is a “Gold” level sponsor of the Chamber’s Small Business Summit, joining other known Chamber members including Best Buy and FedEx. Which raises the question: Is Facebook a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce?

We asked Facebook’s Public Policy Communications Manager Andrew Noyes for more details. Noyes refused to either confirm or deny in a series of emails if Facebook is a dues-paying member of the Chamber. He responded: “These are a series of ongoing events, as described in the press release. You may also wish to reach out to the Chamber and NFIB.”

Why won’t Facebook say if it’s a member of the Chamber? Is it because the company recognizes how bad it would look — including to new shareholders — to financially support a corporate front group that advocates against paid sick leave and lower student loan interest rates, and lobbies on behalf of Michele Bachmann’s bill to repeal all financial regulations?

Facebook also appears to be working with the Chamber on promoting the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which would allow the government to collect information on citizens under a deceptively broad aegis of cybersecurity.

Filed under: Lobbying

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