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Another fumble for Mark Zuckerberg (not the Facebook IPO)

April 11, 2013|By Robin Abcarian
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook headquarters in Menlo… (Jeff Chiu / AP )

How much egg can one face take? I really never thought I would say these words, but poor Mark Zuckerberg. 

Facebook’s public launch was a disaster,  and just when he’s trying to develop some real political muscle, someone leaked his plan to Politico. He came off looking like a fumbling neophyte with grandiose aspirations and ulterior motives. 

According to Politico’s Reid Epstein, Zuckerberg was planning to launch an advocacy group called Human Capital, whose founding members would be a laundry list of Silicon Valley elite, plus political operators like Republican Dan Senor, of the Iraq War and the Paul Ryan vice presidential campaign, and Democrat Joe Lockhart of the Clinton White House.

The all-male group named in the emailed prospectus would build a grassroots organization, pulling “people in tech” into “one of the most powerful political forces,” and “assure women are able to maximally contribute to our economy.”

The group, reported Politico, would be organized as 501(c)4 – defined by the federal tax code as “civic leagues” and “social welfare organizations,” which don’t have to report their donors and have been roundly abused by interests across the political spectrum.

The plan, which was not published in full by Politico, was written by Facebook’s Joe Green, one of Zuckerberg’s Harvard roommates. It  sounds like a Stuart Smalley parody of Silicon Valley hubris:

“We control the avenues of distribution.”

“We have individuals with a lot of money.”

“Our voice carries a lot of weight because we are broadly popular with Americans.”

Well, maybe not if stuff like this keeps leaking out.

 The apology was swift: “Some of the information contained in this email is outdated and not representative of the kind of work this organization will perform,” Green told Politico in a statement. “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 been rechristened FWD.us. On Wednesday, Zuckerberg formally announced it in a Washington Post essay that bears little resemblance to the bid for political domination that was spelled out last week in the Politico story. (The names of three prominent women were included.)  

FWD.us will focus on comprehensive immigration reform, promoting science and technology education, and public funding for scientific research.

But it is especially passionate about a relatively tiny corner of immigration reform, increasing the number of H-1B visas for highly specialized foreign workers.

Here, on the www.FWD.us website, you can see the story of Ruchi, the Indian-born vice president of operations at Dropbox. Unlike PayPal founder Max Levchin, whose story about emigrating from the Soviet Union also appears on the site, she apparently doesn’t need the courtesy of a last name. (It’s Sanghvi, I discovered on LinkedIn.)

I have a hard time believing that the grassroots power Zuckerberg et al are trying to tap into will rally behind giving more visas to non-American workers, but you can’t blame Silicon Valley for putting its business interests first.

Too bad they can’t be a little smoother about it.

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Twitter: @robinabcarian

Email: robin.abcarian@latimes.com

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