Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is testifying before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce today, fresh off the heels of a grueling five-hour joint session before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees yesterday. In total, Zuckerberg will face questions from nearly 100 legislators, and many of those legislators have received thousands of dollars from the company Zuckerberg runs.
Over the last 12 years, Facebook has spent $7 million in campaign contributions. Historically, Facebook has donated slightly more to Democrats than Republicans, but overall, the platform’s political footprint is small in Washington, DC relative to its market cap, which is currently calculated at about $400 billion. That’s not unusual for technology companies: Amazon spent $4 million in campaign contributions over 20 years, and it has a market cap of nearly $700 billion. (Note, however, that Alphabet, Inc., with a market cap just over Amazon’s, appears to be outspending Facebook in DC by an order of magnitude.)
According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, since 2014, Facebook has contributed a total of $641,685 to the members of Congress that Zuckerberg is facing this week. The top recipients of that money include Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).
The amount of money received didn’t necessarily correlate to the hostility of questions asked by the legislators in Zuckerberg’s first hearing. That said, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) did make a somewhat bizarre pro-Facebook comment, saying, “Some have professed themselves shocked, shocked that companies like Google and Facebook share user data with advertisers. Did any of these individuals stop to ask themselves why Google and Facebook don’t charge for access? Nothing in life is free.” Hatch has taken $15,200 from Facebook since 2014 — the sixth largest amount on the combined committees.
But other senators who have received even larger campaign contributions from Facebook didn’t hold back. Cory Booker, who has received $44,025 from Facebook since 2014 (the largest amount), questioned Zuckerberg on the 2016 ProPublica investigation that showed Facebook allowed advertisers to target by race. Kamala Harris, who took the second largest amount ($30,990) grilled the CEO on why Facebook did not notify users in 2015 that Cambridge Analytica had misused their data, causing Zuckerberg to squirm uncomfortably.
If any senators pulled their punches, it was along party lines, when small-government Republicans like Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) or Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) questioned the necessity of additional regulation. At one point Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) held up a tablet and pointed at the Facebook “privacy” tab, blaming individuals for not properly reviewing their own settings. Wicker has received $10,000 from Facebook since 2014, Tillis has received $7,500, and Sullivan has received a whopping $2,500.
The campaign contributions from Facebook to all the legislators who posed Mark Zuckerberg questions this week are listed below. The list includes the members of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees and House Committee on Energy and Commerce are listed in full below, and dates back to 2014.
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