Mark Zuckerberg and Joe Green’s controversial political advocacy group FWD.us started getting the public involved today with its new Speak Up campaign that calls you and connects you to your senator to show your support for immigration reform. Until now, the only way people could participate in FWD.us was by signing up to volunteer later or sharing the group’s messages.
Backed by an A-List cast of liberal-leaning tech CEOs and investors, FWD.us has come under heavy scrutiny. Its purchase of ads advocating for the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge seemed incongruous to the group’s intentions. The scandal has soured public opinion and driven away some early supporters, including Elon Musk and David Sachs. The group still managed to sign on YouTube co-founder Steve Chen and media mogul Barry Diller as funders this week, though.
Getting citizens to push for immigration and education reform, whether or not they believe in FWD.us’ grease-the-wheels political strategy, will be crucial to its success. Money goes a long way, but the group needs grassroots support, too. The Speak Up campaign intends to harness that support with as little friction as possible.
Today FWD.us sent emails to those who’d previously signed up on its site asking them to call their senators and state their preference for immigration reform. Signed by Joe Green, the president of FWD.us, the email explains “Recently the Senate Judiciary Committee took a major step forward when it voted for comprehensive immigration reform. The next step is for the full Senate to vote on the proposal, which is likely to occur later this month. Between now and then, we have to show our representatives that a majority of Americans supports reform.”
But instead of making people search for their senators’ phone numbers or even dial them themselves, the group is going a little more high-tech. Those who click through the email are prompted to enter their ZIP codes and phone numbers. FWD.us then automatically calls their phone, gives them instructions, and patches them in to Washington. I just tried it, and was greeted with a woman’s voice telling me once I’m connected to “just provide your name and address and then say why you support comprehensive immigration reform.” A robot voice then stated “we’re connecting you to Senator Dianne Feinstein.”
If the Senate approves the proposal, it could be seen as FWD.us’ first win, even if its campaigns only make a small difference. It could still go a long way towards people giving its pragmatic approach more credit. Sure, most people don’t want to see techies or their money funding the political favor economy. But if it gets immigration reform passed, allowing more skilled immigrants into the country to create jobs, citizens might cut FWD.us some slack.