This is a big week for Facebook amid its data breach scandal: Mark Zuckerberg will testify in front of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.
Over the past few years, Facebook has stepped up its lobbying efforts meaningfully. Last year, the company spent $11.5 million on lobbying, up 32% from the prior year. In total, the company has allocated $51.4 million towards influencing DC policymaking since 2010.
Taking a deeper dive, we looked at how much Facebook’s PACs or employees have provided to each committee in which the company will be answering questions. Here are descriptions of them along with how much Facebook has given since 2010 (data from Center for Responsive Politics):
House Energy and Commerce Committee: “The committee has responsibility for matters including telecommunications, consumer protection, food and drug safety, public health and research, environmental quality, energy policy, and interstate and foreign commerce among others”, according to its site.
- Facebook has given the members of this committee $380,400 since 2010.
- It’s PAC and employees provided Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore) with $27,000 in contributions over the same timeframe.
- Ranking Member Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) received $7,000.
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee: This committee is “composed of six subcommittees”, which oversee issues ranging from “communications, highways, aviation, rail, shipping, transportation security, merchant marine, the Coast Guard, oceans, fisheries, weather, disasters, science, space, interstate commerce, tourism, consumer issues, economic development, technology, competitiveness, product safety, and insurance”. Link to site.
- This committee’s members received $369,255 from Facebook’s PAC and employees over the past eight years.
- Chairman Senator John Thune (R-SD) received $13,000 during the same period.
- Ranking Member Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla) garnered $15,000 in contributions.
Senate Judiciary Committee: “In addition to its critical role in providing oversight of the Department of Justice and the agencies under the Department’s jurisdiction, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security, the Judiciary Committee plays an important role in the consideration of nominations and pending legislation”. Site link.
- Facebook’s PAC and employees gave this committee’s members $235,105 since 2010.
- Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) received $8,000 over the past eight years.
- Ranking Member Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Cali) received $19,185.
As much as we are sure the committee members take their jobs seriously by protecting the interests of Americans, this data is hard to ignore. We expect members of Congress to ask tough questions, but not put their campaign donations into undue jeopardy. Only time will tell whether or not regulation will come from these hearings, but Mark Zuckerberg’s job will simply be to not do any more damage to his company’s perception.
One larger question also worth considering: how much do politicians of either party value Facebook as an enabler of their own future campaigns? There has been a lot of reporting around how much more adeptly the Trump campaign used the platform than the Clinton camp, for example. While they will come down hard on Zuckerberg the CEO, we doubt they will want to overly regulate Facebook the company. That, as much as any monetary contributions, may be what every committee member will be considering as they grill management this week.
For more data on the breakdown of contributions by party and committee members, here is a link to an article by USA Today.