Facebook Extends Lobbying Reach Into GOP Circles

Posted May 26, 2011 at 5:00am

Facebook is adding new lobbyists with Republican credentials to its Washington, D.C., operation as the company deals with Congressional and executive branch concerns about online privacy and security.

Joel Kaplan, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, will join the company next month as vice president for U.S. public policy. Kaplan, who was previously executive vice president at Energy Future Holdings, will oversee interaction with federal and state officials.

“It’s very smart of them to bring him on,” said Kaplan’s former White House colleague, GOP strategist Ed Gillespie, who runs his own consulting firm. “He has a great breadth of relationships and is very well-respected on both sides of the aisle.”

Gillespie, who does not represent Facebook, called the social networking company “a significant player.” Still, he said, the company has “a lot of big issues. Having someone of Joel’s stature and respect is a huge asset for them.”

Facebook is also bringing on Myriah Jordan on June 6 as a policy manager focused on lobbying Congress. Jordan most recently was general counsel to Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and also logged time in the Bush administration.

With the arrivals and the departure of Director of Public Policy Cathie Martin, who is taking a leave of absence, Facebook’s Washington office will be at 12 employees. That’s up from just three employees at the end of 2009 and one employee when Facebook first set up shop in the capital in 2007.

Its spending on federal lobbying has dramatically increased. In the first quarter of this year, Facebook disclosed that it spent $230,000. For the same period one year before, the company disclosed spending $41,390.

Earlier this year, Facebook tapped the lobbying help of the all-GOP firm Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock. It has retained the Democratic shop Elmendorf Ryan since last year.

The company is committed to explaining how its service works, as well as “the important actions we take to protect the more than 500 million people who use our service; and the value of innovation to our economy,” Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes wrote in an email.

The growth in its lobbying operation is part of that messaging, Noyes added. “It’s imperative that we scale our policy team so that we have the resources in place to demonstrate to policymakers that we are industry leaders in privacy, data security and safety,” he wrote.

Other key players in the D.C. office include Vice President of Global Public Policy Marne Levine and Director of Public Policy Tim Sparapani, who previously worked for the American Civil Liberties Union.