Congressional Business as Usual: Zuckerberg’s Friendly Inquisitors
Featured Story, The Latest News

Congressional Business as Usual: Zuckerberg’s Friendly Inquisitors

The Politicians Who Grilled the Internet CEO Have Taken $650,000 from Facebook Employees

Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Capitol Hill last week was widely publicized as the young billionaire CEO of Facebook handled questions on his company’s practices from the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees and House Energy and Commerce Committees.

The lawmakers attempted to get a look under the hood of Zuckeberg’s expanding digital empire. What wasn’t mentioned was the money Facebook has spent on those politicians.

It turns out that Facebook employees have donated nearly $650,000 to the very politicians who grilled Zuckerberg, and the firm’s lobbyists have contributed more than $750,000 to the same group since 2013, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Only nine out of the 91 committee members have not received funding from Facebook lobbyists in this time frame, data show.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has received the most in contributions from company lobbyists at $20,250 since 2013. Next was Sen. Bill Nelson, (D-Fla.), ranking member of the Commerce Committee, who has received $17,500 over the same period – with $15,000 from the 2018 cycle alone. The Senate Judiciary chair, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), has received $15,250 from Facebook lobbyists, though none in the 2018 cycle. Rounding out the top five, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee, has received $14,250 in donations and the vice chair of the committee, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), has received $5,031.

Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the only ranking member from Facebook’s home state, has received a paltry $500 in the past five years from the company’s lobbyists.

As for lobbying Congress in general, Facebook spent $11.5 million last year alone. And Facebook employees spent $800,000 on various political donations in 2017.

Vermont Second State to Pass Gun-Reform Package

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) signed a gun-reform package into law last week, marking a stark turnabout for the NRA A-grade rated politician and the passage of the most restrictive gun laws in the state’s history. Vermont is the second state, after Florida, to take such measures following the Parkland school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead in February.

The three laws ban the sale of bump stocks and magazines holding more than 10 rounds for a long gun and 15 for a hand gun, unless purchased before last Oct. 1. All guns must be bought and sold through a licensed firearms dealer, excluding sales between immediate family members. The new laws push the gun purchasing age to 21, unless a buyer completes a Vermont hunter safety course or is in the military or law enforcement. The laws also allow police to confiscate a gun from a person in a specific circumstance when they pose a threat.

Gov. Scott said that the arrest of Jack H. Sawyer and his alleged plot to shoot up Fair Haven Union High School in Fair Haven, Vt., two days after the Parkland shooting, changed everything for him.

New Jersey could be the next state to pass new gun laws. The state is already considered one of the toughest on gun laws, second to California. Now it is mulling over several new laws including the ban of large magazines and ammunition capable of penetrating body armor, but also requiring residents of the state to prove a justifiable need to receive a permit to carry a gun in public. That means successful applicants would have to show they actually had been attacked or threatened.

Hot Upcoming Primaries to Watch in May

Democratic Races:

Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District: May 15

This race features former Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Neb.), who lost to incumbent Rep. Don Bacon (R) in the last election after serving one term as a U.S. congressman. Ashford faces nonprofit executive and Metropolitan Community College board member Kara Eastman in the primary, who is running on a platform of tuition-free college and Medicare for all. Ashford has the backing of the big Democratic political players, but most news outlets consider this seat a toss-up in the General Election.

Georgia Governor: May 22

Former state representatives Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans go head to head with polar different strategies in this race. Abrams can mobilize the solidly Democratic black voters with white liberals while Evans appeals to white moderates, mostly outside of urban areas. If Abrams can get out the minority vote, there’s talk this could resemble the recent Alabama and Virginia special elections, at least for a primary, and possibly for the General Election because Georgia has not had a Democratic governor since 1998.

Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District: May 22

A few high-profile candidates are lining up for the chance to face incumbent Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) in the General Election in November. They include Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, state Sen. Reggie Thomas and Marine Corps. Lt. Col. Amy McGrath. The Hill’s Ben Kamisar listed this race as one of seven primaries to watch.

Republican Races:

Indiana’s 6th Congressional District: May 8

With incumbent Luke Messer (R) retiring, his seat is up for grabs. Vice President Mike Pence’s brother Greg Pence is running and already has a lot of support from the House GOP, unsurprisingly. He is running against businessman Jonathan Lamb who is positioning himself as a Washington outsider, unlike Pence. There are other candidates on the ballot, but Pence and Lamb are the top fundraisers and ones to watch.

Indiana Senate: May 8

This race is a hot one as it is viewed as one of the GOP’s chances to possibly nab a seat from the Democrats in November. It also pits longtime rivals Reps. Luke Messer (R) and Todd Rokita (R) against each other. Meanwhile, State Rep. Mike Braun (R) is self-funding his own campaign and is one of the frontrunners.

Ohio’s 12th Congressional District: May 8

With the resignation of Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R), this is the first time the seat has been open since 2000. There are 10 Republican candidates looking to fill it, which may not be difficult, considering the GOP has held it since 1982.

Ohio Governor: May 8

Term limits prevent incumbent Gov. John Kasich (R) from seeking re-election in November. The two candidates who have filed to run in the race are Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R) and Attorney General Mike DeWine (R). By the end of last year, DeWine had a war chest triple the size of Taylor’s with $10.6 million on hand, according to campaign finance information provided by the Ohio Secretary of State.

Georgia Governor: May 22

Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is also retiring because of term limits come November and a crowded field of Republican contenders has emerged, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R). Cagle has led in the polls but has not topped 50%, meaning a runoff election in July is likely. And the fact that he has had some negative publicity for blocking a tax break for Atlanta native Delta Airlines over its move to discontinue discounts for NRA members after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., isn’t helping his chances. Other candidates include Secretary of State Brian Kemp, state senators Hunter Hill and Michael Williams and businessman Clay Tippins.

Featured image: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), left, and Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, (R-S.D.) speak with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg after a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees. (AP photo)

April 16, 2018