Liberal groups boycotting Facebook over immigration push

Several prominent liberal organizations are launching a boycott of Facebook, an escalation in the simmering feud over founder Mark Zuckerberg's immigration reform push.

Progressives are upset with the ads Zuckerberg's group FWD.us has funded in support of vulnerable senators who back immigration reform. Instead of defending the comprehensive reform effort, the spots try to give those lawmakers cover with conservatives by touting their support for oil drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline and opposition to Obamacare.

The League of Conservation Voters, MoveOn.Org, the Sierra Club, Democracy for America, CREDO, Daily Kos, 350.org, Presente and Progressives United all have agreed to either pull their Facebook ad buys or hold off on buying Facebook ads for at least two weeks.

"We were actually going to launch a big new Facebook campaign that we pulled back on," said Jeff Gohringer, spokesman for the League of Conservation Voters. "At the end of the day though, it’s not about the money, it’s about sending Mark Zuckerberg a message.”

CREDO previously attempted to run an anti-FWD.us ad on Facebook; the ad was rejected by the social network because it used an image of Zuckerberg.

“Leaders in the technology community have every right to talk about how immigration reform will benefit their businesses,” former Senator Russ Feingold, the founder of Progressives United, said in a statement. “But instead, FWD.us has chosen a strategy that’s condescending to voters and counterproductive to the cause of reform.”

Launched in April, FWD.us was founded by a group of technology firm leaders who want reforms that will make it easier to hire non-citizens with specialized skills, including more H-1B visas for skilled workers.

One ad backed by the group defends Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) by emphasizing his support for repealing Obamacare as well as the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Gulf. The ad strings together clips of Graham criticizing President Obama, including one in which he describes the health care reform process as "seedy Chicago politics."

Another ad touts Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) for fighting to open the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to drilling, supporting a natural gas pipeline and voting for a balanced budget amendment.

Neither ad mentions immigration. The Graham ad was put out by a FWD.us subsidiary called Americans for a Conservative Direction; the Begich ad by the Council for American Job Growth. Both ran for a week.

“FWD.us is committed to showing support for elected officials who promote the policy changes needed to build the knowledge economy," FWD.us spokeswoman Kate Hansen said in a statement last week. "Maintaining two separate entities, Americans for a Conservative Direction & the Council for American Job Growth, to support elected officials across the political spectrum – separately – means that we can more effectively communicate with targeted audiences of their constituents.”

Facebook declined to comment on the boycott, but it's unlikely to have much impact on the company's bottom line.

"We're not under the impression that we're going to bankrupt Zuckerberg or Facebook with our boycott," said Democracy for America spokesman Neil Sroka. The point, he said is to make clear that progressive activists "reject and refuse to fund -- in any way -- efforts that try to pit our priorities against one another and divide the progressive movement."

Google's Eric Schmidt, Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, venture capitalist John Doerr and angel investor Ron Conway are among the Silicon Valley leaders who are taking part in the effort.

Disclosure: Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham is on Facebook's board, and The Post markets itself on Facebook.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the party of Sen. Mark Begich. This version has been corrected.

 

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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