The Facebook founder and CEO plans to launch a nonprofit advocacy group. Where will its political priorities lie?
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is throwing his hat into the political ring. The 28-year-old tech icon is reportedly forming a nonprofit "to address issues such as education reform, immigration, and scientific research," says Barbara Ortutay for the Associated Press. What exactly can we expect this new group to fight for? Read on.
Getting more visas for foreign tech talent
"The main interest Silicon Valley has in [the immigration] debate," says Tim Fernholz at Quartz, "is increasing the number of visas for highly-skilled immigrants (read: engineers)."
The tech industry has long lobbied for immigration reforms that would make it easier to recruit and keep top-tier talent from abroad. "The good news is that both of America's political parties agree that more highly-skilled immigrants should be let in to the country," Fernholz says. "The bad news is that the issues that divide them will be tough for the new group, reportedly dedicated to a broad goal of simplifying the immigration system, to wade into."
Bringing Silicon Valley to the Beltway
Many legislators in Congress are out-of-touch with the realities of science. "Last September, Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia asserted that evolution, embryology and the big bang theory were lies straight from the pit of hell," said Greg Satell at Forbes. And "while the scientific opinions of an obscure legislator from rural Georgia may seem of little import," it makes a big difference when those legislators sit on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. "If Silicon Valley won't stand up for science and technology, who will?"
Beefing up education
"Zuckerberg also has a soft spot for school reform," said Rick Newman at U.S. News and World Report. He once announced on Oprah that he would donate $100 million of his own money "to help revamp the troubled schools in Newark, N.J." Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey have also campaigned to encourage schools to teach computer coding. Expect the Facebook CEO's new advocacy group to "do a lot more to highlight the business imperative for better public schools."
A look at Facebook's lobbying budget offers more clues about Zuckerberg's political priorities. Its lobbying spending surged by nearly 300 percent, to just under $4 million, in 2012, and focused on issues including immigration, cybersecurity, and data privacy, said Janie Boschma at OpenSecrets. Facebook's political action committee also spent $269,000 supporting federal candidates from both parties in 2012, although it slightly "favored House Republicans and Democrats running for Senate seats."
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