Facebook Financial Ties to Committees Investigating Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, principal shareholder and chief executive officer, will be facing questions from Congressional committees next week. Some of the members of Congress who will be firing questions at Zuckerberg in these meetings have received substantial campaign contributions from Facebook, according to a copyrighted article by Herb Jackson published on the USA Today website today.

One of the committees, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, controls regulations affecting internet companies. The members of the committee received nearly $381,000 in contributions from Facebook-affiliated donors since 2007, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Forty-six of the fifty-five members currently sitting on the Energy and Commerce Committee received Facebook contributions in the past decade, with Republicans getting an average of $6,800 and Democrats getting $6,750. Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) received $27,000. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the top-ranking Democrat, got just $7,000.

After he is grilled by the Energy and Commerce Committee, Zuckerberg will be questioned at a joint hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that an additional $369,000 went to members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, while the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee received $235,000 from Facebook-related contributors.

Altogether, FaceBook has contributed approximately $7 million to the political campaigns of candidates for federal offices, with Democrats getting 65 percent of the booty , leaving Republicans with just 33 percent of the contributions. A total of $1.1 million went to House members, split almost evenly between the parties.

The biggest winner in the Facebook contributions sweepstakes was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who has received $55,150 worth of  Facebook contributions since 2007. The runner up was Rep Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the second ranking member on the Commerce Committee, who received. $51,050. Eshoo represents the adjacent district to the one where Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters is located.

In an April, 2015 statement to its employees, Facebook explained that its political contribution strategy is based upon how candidates support FaceBook’s advocacy for an “open internet.”

In addition to direct contributions to political candidates, Facebook also spent $11.5 million lobbying Congress in 2017 according to OpenSecreets.Org, a website operated by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Since 2009, the company has spent almost $52 million on lobbyists.

Three members of the committees who will interrogate Zuckerberg also own stock in Facebook, including Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), who owns $15,000 worth of Facebook stock, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA), who has $80,000 worth of Facebook in his trust funds, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who has $30,000 worth of Facebook in his personal portfolio.

While Congressional apologists claim that there’s no reason to assume that Zuckerberg won’t be facing stiff questioning simply because his company contributes money to political candidates and pays lobbyists to promote the company’s interests, that’s exactly what some consumer advocates believe. The apologists point out that Zuckerberg’s willingness to testify indicates that he intends to be forthcoming. Critics contend that the Facebook CEO could not have refused the polite invitation because it probably would have resulted in a congressional subpoena that would have compelled him to attend.

When he goes to Washington, Mr. Zuckerberg will face questions about possible violations of user privacy protection resulting from the company’s decision to share user activity data with Cambridge Analytica, a political targeting firm that worked on President Trump’s 2016 campaign, and now figures in Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into the ways the Trump campaign may have utilized that information.

The so-called security breach was the result of Facebook allowing Cambridge Analytica to post a series of personality profile applications which collected preference information then used by Cambridge Analytica to target potential voters who might be more receptive to a barrage of pro-Trump posts on social media that now appear to have originated from Russia or other former Soviet Bloc nations. Facebook has reportedly suspended the firm’s account after concluding Cambridge Analytica obtained and did not destroy personal information from users who had downloaded the company’s data collection application.

In a USA Today story published yesterday, Facebook revealed that as many as 87 million accounts may have had their data improperly “shared” with Cambridge Analytica. In a rebuttal published today on the Cambridge Analytica’s website, the London-based company, which has branches in New York and Washington, D.C., claims that it obtained data for no more than 30 million people from a British company called Global Science Research, LTD, (GSR), which did the actual data mining on behalf of Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica goes on to claim that they “licensed” the data from GSR and did not purchase or directly obtain the data from Facebook. The press release also claims that none of the data they obtained from Facebook via GSA was used during their work on behalf of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

In a March, 2018, article by Paul Lewis and Carrie Wong, as published by The Guardian, it was revealed that one of the co-founders of Global Science Research, Joseph Chancellor, was hired by Facebook in November of 2015, two months after he left GSR, and is still employed by Facebook as a “quantitative social pyschologist,” a title that suggests he is now doing the same kind of data mining for Facebook that he previously did for GSR.

According to a new website called Companieshouse.gov.uk , another British company, Global Science Research LTD was dissolved on October 31, 2017.