Zuckerberg’s Lobby Can’t Stay Silent On Secretive Conservative Political Ads Forever

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Online backlash is growing against Mark Zuckerberg’s lobby’s secretive ads supporting conservative senators who encourage the creation of the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. “Immigration reform – fine. Oil expansion and pipelines? NOT fine. Where’s the transparency here, rich dudes? Or does FWD actually stand for Fine With Drilling?,” wrote one angry commenter on the FWD.us Facebook page.

FWD.us is the latest A-list technology political interest group to come out swinging for high-skilled immigration reform. Partnering with many of Silicon Valley’s brightest luminaries, from Google Chairman Eric Schmidt to Bill Gates, FWD.us made a very public debut this month, promising grassroots activism in support of knowledge-economy-friendly policymaking.

FWD.us strategically splits its operation into liberal and conservative outreach, directly funding ads of senators friendly to high-skilled immigration reform. The Internet rumor machine spun an ad supporting Republican Senator Lindsey Graham into a link bait headline claiming that FWD.us subsidary “Americans For A Conservative Direction,” were “Promoting Wildlife Oil Drilling.”

As Salon‘s Andrew Leonard correctly points out, Zuckerberg, as founding tech partner of FWD.us, is not actually supporting Arctic drilling by indirectly funding ads in support of certain senators. But, FWD.us has been conspicuously silent about any details related to the high-profile lobby. Yesterday at our Disrupt Conference, FWD.us’s director, Joe Green, strategically avoided any details about their lobbying strategy or the controversial conservative ads.

As I’ve written before, no one in D.C. will be surprised that FWD.us is playing political games. And, if they were just holding lavish dinners and shelling out campaign donations, the negative press wouldn’t hurt.

But as an organization that’s attempting to galvanize broad grassroots support, it’s going to have a hard time appealing to the tech masses when friends will publicly condemn each other for supporting such a stealthy political organization (on Facebook, ironically). Transparency about the realities of Washington may be the only way they can redeem their fragile reputation.