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Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Facebook's Timothy Sparapani.

Facebook leases room to grow

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By Jonathan O'Connell
Monday, December 6, 2010

Facebook signed a lease late last month to open a new government relations office on F Street in downtown Washington, part of the tech company's expansion of its lobbying and outreach efforts here.

The social networking giant, which has more than 500 million registered users, currently has offices on Connecticut Avenue north of Dupont Circle, but will be moving to 1155 F St. NW, a newly refurbished office building by Douglas Development where it will have 8,600 square feet, enough space to expand its current six-person staff to 30 or 40 people.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in an e-mail that the new office constituted "a long-term location that will fit our growing business needs" and that the company expected to move at the end of April.

Noyes declined to say how much the company's government relations unit will grow, but Facebook has made a number of hires in recent years to boost its presence in Washington and address issues such as copyright, security of children online and privacy. In 2009 it hired Timothy Sparapani from the American Civil Liberties Union to be its main point person on Capitol Hill. And in June the company announced the hiring of its first vice president of global public policy, nabbing Marne Levine from her post in the White House as chief of staff of the National Economic Council.

Facebook will join a handful of law firms and corporate government relations units that Douglas Development has lured to the building. Other tenants include Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Bryan Cave, Novo Nordisk, Intel and Home Depot.

"We didn't specifically design it with [government relations] in mind," said Norman Jemal, who directs leasing activity for Douglas Development. "What we set out to do was to design and build the best quality building we can."

Facebook's Washington presence is still tiny compared that of other major tech firms. The company spent between $200,000 and $250,000 lobbying each of the past two years, according to the Web site OpenSecrets.org, all of it in-house. By comparison, Microsoft is spending $5.2 million lobbying this year and Google is spending $3.9 million, according to OpenSecrets.

But as it continues to expand, Facebook could face increased scrutiny on the Hill. Recently members of Congress questioned the company's privacy practices, and their concerns were heightened in October after Facebook users' identifying information was reportedly being used by some of the site's popular online applications. Levine responded with a 13-page letter to Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe L. Barton (R-Tex.) Oct. 29 saying that Facebook was tightening its controls.


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