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Timothy B. Lee

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Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government. She also delves into the societal impacts of technology access and how innovation is intertwined with cultural development.

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Posted at 02:39 PM ET, 07/23/2012

Facebook triples lobbying budget from last year, eyes White House


(Karen Bleier - AFP/Getty Images)
Facebook tripled its lobbying efforts in the second quarter of the year, spending nearly $1 million to influence Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and White House on their positions regarding online privacy and child safety protection. That’s also up from $650,000 in the first quarter.

The company is still spending far less than chief competitor Google, which spent nearly $4 million in lobbying during the same period. And the company has a lobbying budget a fraction of the size of telecom heavyweights such as AT&T and Verizon.

But a few things stand out about the social media powerhouse.

1. Its lobbyists and policy staff, some veteran Obama and Bush staffers, are using their White House connections.

Facebook’s White House connections run deep. Louisa Terrell is a former staffer to Vice President Joe Biden and Joel Kaplan was George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff. While the company doesn’t specify which individuals lobbied the White House, they are among a list of lobbyists who visited agencies, Congress and the executive office of the president, White House office, National Economic Council and Office of Science & Technology Policy. Marne Levine, head of the Washington D.C. office, comes from the National Economic Council, where she was chief of staff to former Obama economics adviser Larry Summers.

At the Facebook lobbying meetings and others at the Department of Defense and Commerce Department, Terrell, Kaplan and a handful of other lobbyists discussed do-not-track mandates, updates to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and video privacy protection.

2. It’s spending more while competitors are spending less so far this year.

Google’s lobbying efforts decreased to $3.9 million from $5 million in the first quarter. But it’s up from $2 million during the same time period last year.

Apple spent $470,000 in the second quarter, down from $500,000 in the first quarter.

Netflix spent $135,000 in the second quarter compared to $260,000 in the first.

3. It prefers to think of itself as educators. In its required Senate lobbying paperwork, Facebook explains its lobbying on issues as “education” regarding Internet privacy, its controversial tag-suggest feature and child safety.

“Our presence and growth in Washington reflect our commitment to explaining how our service works, the actions we take to protect the more than 900 million people who use our service, the importance of preserving an open Internet, and the value of innovation to our economy," Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in a statement.

Related:

Google facing aggressive E.U. regulators

In Silicon Valley, fast firms and slow regulators

How AT&T Fumbled its $39 billion bid for T-Mobile

By  |  02:39 PM ET, 07/23/2012

 
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