The leader of Zuckerberg’s high-profile immigration lobby has already issued a statement of “regret” for ambitious language in an early prospectus on its goals and tactics, “Given the status of our funders and quality of our team, we will drive national and local narratives to properly frame our agenda,” reads the leaked memo, obtained by Politico.
The prospectus reportedly reveals that the group called “Human Capital”, with founding members Bill Gates and Andreessen Horowitz Investor, Marc Andreessen, has goals to use the group’s own reputation and websites to push their political message, just like companies did when they blacked out their sites in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
“Several prominent leaders in the tech community, operating solely as individuals, continue to work on forming an issues advocacy organization that would seek to promote issues such as comprehensive immigration reform and education reform,” the group’s leader, Joe Green, told Politico in a statement, “However, some of the information contained in this email is outdated and not representative of the kind of work this organization will perform. Moreover, I regret some of the language in the email was poorly-chosen and could give a misimpression of the views and aspirations of this organization and those associated with it.”
Politico also reports that group will not be named “Human Capital”, nor have Gates or Andreessen signed on.
The leak is being received as some PR misstep for the group, but I don’t see how anything in the memo is shocking. Lobbies leverage a group’s reputation and resources to push political messages, almost by definition. Nor is using the tech community’s captive audience of billions of users particularly novel. Beyond the SOPA protests, Google exploits its website to promote marriage equality (with adorable videos)
To a lesser extent, tech companies attempt to influence behavior. Facebook encourages users to vote and be an organ donor. Apple used to plaster “don’t steal music” on iPods. Perhaps even more transparent, the Bay Area (i.e Silicon Valley) funneled more cash to President Obama’s campaign than either Los Angeles (Hollywood) or New York (Wall Street).
Moreover, there are plenty of existing tech lobbies, such as The Internet Association, Engine Advocacy, TechNet, The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and the Consumer Electronic Association, all with nearly identical support for more high skilled immigrant visas.
The memo’s language is brazen, for sure, and reveals that tech CEOs are aware of their own power. The group was supposed to launch this month, right before a draft of a comprehensive immigration reform bill hits Congress for debate. I suspect that everything is still on track, because no one in Washington DC will be surprised that people want to use money and power to influence law.