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Facebook Builds Washington Presence With First PAC Donations

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg
In this file photo Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., speaks at a press event at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Facebook Inc., before a planned initial public offering, is following the path of technology companies such as Microsoft Corp. in ramping up its presence in Washington and forming a political action committee.

The PAC raised $170,000 in the last three months of 2011, according to a filing with the U.S. Federal Election Commission yesterday. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg gave $5,000, marking his first federal campaign donation, according to a search of records at the FEC and Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money.

Facebook, the world’s largest social-networking service, created the PAC in September. PACs allow companies to wield clout in Washington by donating to lawmakers who share their philosophy or sit on committees that have jurisdiction over issues that affect their business. Facebook hasn’t yet donated to any federal candidates, according to yesterday’s filing.

“Facebook has really increased its lobbying and also started raising cash to make friends of its own in Washington politics,” said Michael Beckel, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. “These are the traditional tools that companies and interest groups utilize, so it’s not surprising to see Facebook jumping into that game.”

Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, spent $1.35 million on lobbying last year, up from $351,390 in 2010.

Microsoft, Google

Microsoft accelerated its lobbying and PAC donations after confronting a Justice Department antitrust suit and congressional hearings in the 1990s. More recently, Google Inc. ratcheted up its Washington presence while facing a Federal Trade Commission investigation.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, gave $1.2 million to federal candidates and political committees for the 2010 elections, up from $212,000 for the 1998 elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Mountain View, California-based Google gave $336,000 to candidates for the last set of elections, compared with $31,000 for the 2006 cycle.

Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, donated $5,000 to the company’s PAC on Oct. 13, the report showed. She has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates including President Barack Obama.

Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman and Joe Lockhart, the company’s vice president of global communications and a former White House press secretary in Democrat Bill Clinton’s administration, also gave $5,000 each.

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