Liberal groups are currently boycotting Facebook in outrage over ads, funded by an advocacy group launched by founder Mark Zuckerberg, that cheer oil drilling and disparage health-care reform.
A freeze on ads from a handful of advocacy groups is unlikely to have much impact on Facebook's revenue. But the anger on the left directed at Zuckerberg does expose a popular misconception: That the young billionaire is one of them. In fact, there's not much evidence that he is much of a political animal -- for either party.
"If you were looking at it on a spectrum he'd be more Democrat than Republican," confirms a person familiar with Zuckerberg's political thinking. But he approaches politics based on the issues he cares about -- right now, education reform and immigration reform -- and "focuses like a laser."
Election officials in Santa Clara County, California, confirm that Zuckerberg voted in 2008 and 2012 but is registered as having no party preference. Last year he held a fundraiser for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican. But officials familiar with Zuckerberg's schedule say he plans to raise money for the Senate bid of Newark Mayor Cory Booker in the coming months.
Zuckerberg has done a town hall with President Obama and attended a dinner with the nation's chief executive but also met with members of the House Republican leadership. His only disclosed political donations have gone to Facebook's political action committee.
That PAC gave money to both Democrats and Republicans in 2012, with the GOP getting slightly more of the cash. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) were among the recipients.
Facebook is lobbying on Capitol Hill to get a carve-out in immigration reform that would make it easier to hire foreign workers and while Zuckerberg mentions a path to citizenship in his Washington Post op-ed announcing the formation of a group dedicated to immigration reform known as FWD.us his focus is quite clearly on high-skilled workers.
Of course, there are reasons to think that Zuckerberg would personally lean left. One of his co-founders, Chris Hughes, went on to work for President Obama's 2008 campaign; his husband is running for Congress as a Democrat in New York in 2014. The contributions of individual Facebook staffers skew heavily Democratic.
One Facebook source argues that a political strategy adopted by a group Zuckerberg funds should not be used to pass judgment on the Facebook founder himself. "People are trying to attribute views to him that he has never suggested that he has one way or the other," he said.
That's exactly what these progressive groups are saying.
"Either Mark Zuckerberg personally endorses the anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-environment agenda, or he is as inept at politics as he is an expert at social media," said Becky Bond of CREDO, one of the organizations boycotting Facebook.
But Zuckerberg is a billionaire and Facebook has over a billion users. Facebook is, at root, a massive company aimed not at playing in politics as its primary mission. Political junkies -- in both parties -- would do well to remember that.