As a contrite Mark Zuckerberg is grilled on Capitol Hill this week over the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, he can be forgiven for hoping some cool Facebook lobbying cash will help reduce the heat from his inquisitors.
According to OpenSecrets.org, a site that tracks political contributions, Facebook-affiliated donors have given liberally to candidates at the federal level – liberally indeed: Since the 2006 election cycle, they have given roughly twice as much to Democrats ($4.6 million) as Republicans ($2.3 million).
In the 2012 presidential cycle, they gave nearly five times more to Barack Obama ($95,107) than to Mitt Romney ($20,100), as Facebook was also evidently assisting Obama's online efforts. For 2016 they bestowed about 100 times more money on Hillary Clinton ($478,466) than on Donald Trump ($4,815), notwithstanding any help the latter got from Cambridge Analytica's mining of Facebook data.
As individual donors, Zuckerberg and his Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg leaned in to elections in recent years with thousands in donations primarily to Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senators Michael Bennet, Claire McCaskill, Mark Warner, Ron Wyden and Cory Booker, among others.
Zuckerberg’s most immediate concern is his interrogators this week – Democrats and Republicans alike who have benefitted from his company's cash.
USA Today reported last week that the congressional panel that got the most Facebook contributions is the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which questioned Zuckerberg on Wednesday.
Members of the panel, which has regulatory power over Internet companies, received nearly $381,000 in contributions tied to Facebook since 2007, USA Today reported, citing OpenSecrets.
The second-highest total, $369,000, went to members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which jointly questioned Zuckerberg with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
The paper said Judiciary Committee members have received $235,000 in Facebook contributions. Democrats Kamala Harris, Patrick Leahy, and Amy Klobuchar as well as Republican Mike Lee stand out as recent recipients.
Harris, a presidential prospect from Facebook's home state of California, ranked fourth among all Facebook cash recipients in the 2016 election cycle with $28,275, after Hillary Clinton, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer ($38,900) and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders ($37,592).
Other members of the Judiciary committee who received Facebook-connected donations during the 2016 cycle include:
Leahy (D-Vt.) – $13,900.
Lee (R-UT) – $11,000.
Klobuchar (D-Minn.) – $8,200.
Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) – $7,200.
Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) – $5,000.
Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) – $4,000.
Orrin Hatch (R-UT) – $4,000.
Senators Klobuchar, Blumenthal and Lee are also on the Commerce Committee, which includes numerous other Facebook money recipients in 2016. Among them is Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) who got $5,000, as did the ranking member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
On the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), received $27,000 over the past decade, while Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the top-ranking Democrat, got $7,000, USA Today reported. It said all but nine on the 55-member panel got Facebook money over the past decade, with the average Republican getting $6,800 and the average Democrat $6,750.
OpenSecrets, from the Center for Responsive Politics, notes that tech companies such as Facebook, while relative newcomers to the political money game, are now big players. Like other big organizations, the company itself does not make direct donations. Instead, OpenSecrets says, the money comes from PACs and other affiliates; individual members; or employees or owners and those individuals' immediate families.