Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s foray into politics has gone about as smoothly as his company’s IPO.
His advocacy group, which seeks the passage of immigration legislation, stumbled out of the gates by falsely claiming Bill Gates was on its board. It also stated that the group’s board members would use their companies to “control the avenues of distribution,” which would potentially violate broadcast and campaign finance laws.
The 501(c) “social welfare” group, which can raise an unlimited amount of money and initially plans to raise $50 million, said its “immediate” goal is to pass comprehensive immigration reform as a way of launching the organization and thus prove to Washington’s monied elite that it can be a “difference maker.”
Politico obtained a copy of the prospectus, which showed the group may be as incompetent as many in the professional lobbying and consulting class have been in Republican campaigns.
The prospectus claims, “Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen are founding members” of an advocacy group named “Human Capital,” detailing how top Silicon Valley executives plan to use their companies and coordinate in order to “control the avenues of distribution” to get their political message in favor of immigration reform out to the public.
Another section details three reasons why the tech leaders, many of whom apparently think they are “broadly popular” with Americans, believe they can influence the political debate:
1: We control massive distribution channels, both as companies and individuals. We saw the tip of the iceberg with SOPA/PIPA.
2: Our voice carries a lot of weight because we are broadly popular with Americans.
3. We have individuals with a lot of money. If deployed properly this can have huge influence in the current campaign finance environment.
However, Politico noted Gates and Andressen are not signed on to the group, the group will not be called “Human Capital,” and should these executives seek to control the “avenues of distribution,” they would potentially be in violation of broadcasting and campaign finance laws.
Joe Green, Zuckerberg’s college roommate who is leading the group, had to apologize for botching many details in the prospectus.
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. 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.
The group has signed on establishment Republican political consultants and lobbyists to help it gain influence in Washington and advertises itself as the “only well-funded bipartisan pro-reform group” that has the ability to “build a database of interested parties” to influence both the “grasstops” and “grassroots” to get an immigration bill passed. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also has a bipartisan advocacy group seeking similar goals.
Those involved with the advocacy group reportedly include Netflix founder Reed Hastings, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom, and venture capitalists Jim Breyer, Ron Conway, and Paul Graham.