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Immigration bill is political win for Mark Zuckerberg's Fwd.us

June 27, 2013|By Jessica Guynn
  • Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg waged a sophisticated lobbying campaign that helped push forward immigration legislation that would increase the flow of highly skilled foreign workers in science and technology.
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg waged a sophisticated lobbying campaign… (David Paul Morris / Bloomberg )

SAN FRANCISCO -- Executives all over Silicon Valley are celebrating the Senate's passage of the most significant revamping of the nation's immigration laws in decades.

No one more so than Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg who, with his political advocacy group Fwd.us, waged a sophisticated lobbying campaign that helped push forward the legislation that would allow for undocumented workers to become U.S. citizens and increase the flow of highly skilled foreign workers in science and technology.

Fwd.us., which has the backing of 100 prominent executives from the high-tech industry including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer, hired a high-powered team of consultants and lobbyists on both sides of the political aisle to help press for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington.

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In the run-up to the Senate vote, Fwd.us spent about $5 million on advertising on television and radio, conducted grass-roots outreach in more than 20 states and worked with pollsters from both parties to craft political messages on immigration, according to Fwd.us.

Its tactics were so effective, opponents of immigration reform attacked Fwd.us from the Senate floor.

But Fwd.us was just one in a broad coalition of groups pressing for reform, Democratic strategist Chris Lehane said.

"There have been a lot of folks including Fwd.us pulling in the same direction," Lehane said. "This is the equivalent of getting a first down, but they still have to get a touchdown."

The Senate bill always had a good chance of winning passage. Now it goes to the House where it faces stiff opposition from conservative members.

Joe Green, founder and president of Fwd.us, acknowledged that opposition Thursday but said the vote "represents a monumental step forward for comprehensive immigration reform."

San Jose State University political science professor Larry Gerston said it's unclear Fwd.us' tactics made a significant difference in the Senate and will likely have far less success in the Republican-controlled House.

"Whatever degree of success Fwd.us had in the Senate will be diluted in the House," Gerston said.

Fwd.us' tactics, including running controversial TV ads to gain support from conservatives, have come under fire in Silicon Valley and even from within Fwd.us' own ranks.

Last month two prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneurs -- Elon Musk, the billionaire co-founder of electric car maker Tesla Motors, chief executive of SpaceX and chairman of solar-energy company Solar City; and David Sacks, CEO and founder of Yammer -- quit Fwd.us after protests from environmentalists and liberal groups over ads supporting senators in their home states including one praising support of the Keystone XL pipeline.

ALSO:

Zuckerberg's advocacy ads under fire

Facebook CEO Zuckerberg launches lobbying vehicle Fwd.us

Mark Zuckerberg's Fwd.us draws fire from some in the tech industry


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