Facebook Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is making a rare appearance in Washington, D.C., this week. Zuckerberg has been raising his political profile since the company went public in May 2012, and this trip is a highly visible extension of that strategy.
According to Politico, the 29-year-old executive will meet with top Republican and Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, John Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), whose committee oversees privacy, cybersecurity, online advertising, and other relevant communications issues.
Facebook has been careful to avoid the mistakes of older tech companies, such as Microsoft and Google – ignoring Washington lawmakers and regulators until it was too late. Just ask Microsoft how its strategy in the nation’s capital changed following the government’s antitrust suit against the software giant.
The social network already has a solid D.C. presence. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is no stranger to Washington, and she has made frequent visits to her former hometown (Politico reports that she’ll be back in a few weeks). The social network’s Washington office is led by former George W. Bush official Joel Kaplan, who will be accompanying Zuckerberg around town this week.
And the social network spends a hefty amount on lobbying, besting other tech companies through the first half of 2013.
Previously, Zuckerberg was focused on product, and he was a regular presence at tech shows and major product announcements. But in the past year or so, Facebook followers have seen a more politically active executive. Just last week, he ripped the government’s surveillance program. He donated to U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker, an Internet phenom, and he is an outspoken advocate for immigration reform via his Silicon Valley effort, FWD.us.
Lawmakers like to see corporate executives involved in Washington affairs. And if Sandberg’s often-rumored departure from Facebook is imminent, it makes sense to have its top executive a familiar face to D.C. types. Zuckerberg has done a good job of carving out his own identify in the public-affairs space, especially with Sandberg’s focus on women’s issues. He has picked his battles carefully.
Readers: Do you think Zuckerberg should be more or less involved in politics?