How convenient is this? On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but it seems that hearing may be somewhat tainted by news that all but nine of the 55 members on the committee have received campaign donations from Facebook.
According to USA Today:
Members of the committee, whose jurisdiction gives it regulatory power over Internet companies, received nearly $381,000 in contributions tied to Facebook since 2007, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The center is a non-partisan, non-profit group that compiles and analyzes disclosures made to the Federal Election Commission.
The second-highest total, $369,000, went to members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which announced later that it would have a joint hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Zuckerberg on Tuesday. Judiciary Committee members have received $235,000 in Facebook contributions.
On the House committee, Republicans got roughly twice as much as Democrats, counter to the broader trend in Facebook campaign gifts. Of the $7 million in contributions to all federal candidates tied to the Menlo Park, Calif.-based social network, Democrats got 65% to Republicans’ 33%.
According to the report, the average Republican received $6,800 from Facebook, while the average Democrat got $6,750. Committee chairman Greg Walden, R-Oregon, for example, received $27,000, while Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., received only $7,000.
C.J. Young, a spokesman for Democrats on the committee, said he could not discuss campaign contributions.
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“But the premise that Facebook is getting softballs from the committee isn’t grounded in the facts,” Young told USA Today.
Of course, this is nothing new, and the social media company has a right to participate in the political arena like any other business, but can we really expect a fair hearing from members of Congress who are essentially working on Zuckerberg’s dime?
The USA Today report added:
A member of both of the Senate committees that will question Zuckerberg on Tuesday is Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. As an opponent of Trump in the 2016 presidential race, Cruz’s campaign paid Cambridge Analytica $5.8 million. He said last month he had been assured that all the data the company provided was obtained legally.
Cruz got a $15,000 contribution tied to Facebook in 2012, but nothing since then. Rep. O’Rourke, the Texas Democrat vying to unseat Cruz, is the fourth-highest recipient of contributions tied to Facebook in this election cycle, receiving nearly $13,000.
Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of the campaign finance reform advocacy group Democracy21, said having a committee that got the most contributions from Facebook question its top executive about a national controversy demonstrates why the system needs to be changed.
“Powerful interests provide lots of money to the committees that have jurisdiction over them, and they do it to gain influence with those members of Congress,” he said. “It’s a fundamental problem that exists throughout the system and throughout the committee structure, and it undermines public confidence that the members are going to make decisions in the best interests of the American people.”
Of course, there is a solution: Voters need to get more engaged, do their own research and hold their representatives accountable.
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- New Facebook alternative gives conservatives a ‘site with a purpose’ without the censorship
- Faceblock campaign asks users to boycott Facebook for 24 hours
And if you’re as concerned about online censorship as we are, go here and order this book: