Reporting from Washington — Seeking to increase its influence in Washington, Facebook Inc. is starting a political action committee to funnel employee contributions to federal candidates.
The move to create what will be called FB PAC is another indication of the company's political evolution as its dramatic growth creates a need to protect itself from government policies, such as potentially tough online privacy regulations.
Three top House Republicans were scheduled to appear Monday at Facebook's headquarters in Palo Alto to take questions from employees and guests. President Obama did the same thing in April.
"FB PAC will give our employees a way to make their voice heard in the political process by supporting candidates who share our goals of promoting the value of innovation to our economy while giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected," said Andrew Noyes, Facebook's spokesman in Washington.
The PAC's formation was first reported by the Hill, a Capitol Hill website and newspaper.
Facebook hired its first employee in Washington in 2007 and has been expanding its presence, so a PAC was a logical move. The company started lobbying in 2009 and spent $550,000 in the first half of 2011 lobbying federal officials. Facebook spent $351,390 in all of 2010 and $207,878 in 2009.
Corporations are not allowed to give money directly to candidates. But many companies form PACs, which are funded by voluntary employee contributions.
The PAC then makes contributions to political candidates. Companies often strategically hedge their bets by giving to key Democrats and Republicans on congressional committees that handle legislation covering their industry.
Google Inc., for example, started a PAC in 2006 and contributed $336,000 to federal candidates in the 2010 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Although its employees on their own have given overwhelmingly to Democrats, Google's PAC is more bipartisan — 54% of the PAC's money in 2010 went to Democratic candidates and 46% to Republicans.
Facebook employees have had a similar Democratic tilt. About 80% of the $50,470 they contributed to federal candidates in the 2010 cycle went to Democrats, the Center for Responsive Politics said.