A nonprofit organization founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs has tripled their federal lobbying expenditures in the second quarter but still remains a very small player among Capitol insiders.
FWD.US was founded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, such as, Microsoft's Bill Gates, Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman, among others. They stated they would lobby and advocate for immigration reform, changes to the education system and facilitate scientific breakthroughs.
The group hired two Washington firms to lobby on their behalf.The two firms were each paid only $90,000 in the second quarter for lobbying, but triple what each was paid during the first quarter. Peck Madigan Jones lobbied on "Gang of Eight negotiations; S.169, I-Squared Act f 2013; S.744, Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act; H.R. 2131, Skills Visa Act." John Michael Gonzalez, Jeff Peck and Jonathan Jones were the lobbyists. Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock lobbied on Comprehensive Immigration Reform and S. 744. Their lobbyists were Aleix Jones, Billy Piper, Danielle Maurer, Kate Hull, Kirk Blalock, Kirsten Chadwick, Mark Isakowitz and Mike Chappell.
Although their insider lobbying effort was small, the organization has, from the start, wanted to build a public base of supporters. It has tried to reach out to the general public with "grass-roots" advertising on the immigration issue. Some media organizations have placed the expenditure amount at $5 million for ads in more than 20 states. The ads were meant primarily to support those Senators who favor immigration reform. It is not clear if the ads also created a base of supporters.
Efforts have included ads supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. One effort, done under the name of Americans for a Conservative Direction, ran ads on conservative talk radio pushing for immigration reform claiming there is little border security now, and something needs to be done. While trying to gain support from conservatives the ads may have also rankled environmentalists and liberal groups, causing two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to leave FWD.US. The group has also been criticized for trying to adjust immigration laws to get new talent for their own corporations.
FWD.US is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization that does not disclose is contributors. If they did voluntarily disclose donors and amounts contributed, the public could see if this organization had just a few rich supporters, or had a wide base of support.