Last week The Hill reported on the ever-expanding lobbying footprint of Facebook in Washington. The company hired the lobbying firm Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, a firm close to Republicans in high office. At the same time, the firm hired another lobbying firm, Elmendorf Strategies, with close connections to Democratic congressional leadership.
Elmendorf Strategies is the eponymous firm of Steve Elmendorf, a former top level congressional staffer and Democratic Party insider. Elmendorf served as chief of staff to House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt from 1992 to 2004. In 2004, Elmendorf was chief of staff to Gephardt’s presidential bid and later became deputy campaign manager to the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry. Elmendorf worked for Bryan & Cave before forming his own lobbying firm in 2007.
The Facebook lobbying registration lists three registered lobbyists from Elmendorf Strategies. They are Elmendorf, Jimmy Ryan, and Brian LaSala. Ryan is a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He served the Nevada Senator for a decade before leaving to head the lobbying shop of Citigroup. Ryan bolted Citigroup in 2009 to work for Elmendorf. LaSala formerly worked as Counsel for Sen. Kerry on issues related to the Massachusetts Senator’s work on the Small Business, Commerce, and Finance Committees. LaSala also previously worked as a lobbyist for Microsoft.
The dual hiring of Elmendorf Strategies and Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock provide Facebook with entree into both the halls of the Democratic Senate Leadership and the Republican House Leadership.
This comes as Capitol Hill is placing more attention on the growing social networking giant. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wrote to Zuckerberg with 18 detailed questions about a series of reported privacy breaches that involved personally identifiable information from millions of Facebook users being transmitted to third-party applications. And on [February 2], Barton and Markey fired off another letter to Zuckerberg, expressing concerns about Facebook’s plans to share user addresses and mobile phone numbers with developers and websites.”
Other issues may require the talents of the recently hired cadre of lobbyists including the Federal Trade Commission’s effort to support the creation of a do-not-track mechanism and a Commerce Department call for companies to create an online privacy bill of rights.
Facebook, which is used to being splashed across computer and new screens, has also been plastered on protest signs across the Middle East as pro-democracy revolutionaries have touted the site as a tool to tear down dictators. While most of the coverage has been incredibly positive for Facebook, the company’s policy of requiring the use of a real name for users has irked some who believe pseudonymous use could help protect users organizing in repressive nations.
LaSala’s previous work for Sen. Kerry, now the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, could help Facebook meet any challenge or discussion regarding their policies as they affect the popular uprisings in the Middle East.