I will be talking about this sort of thing a lot, because that's what this blog is ultimately about. This is the sort of thing that makes clear why you should always be skeptical about anything you read or hear in today's political climate.
I woke up this morning, and saw the following Tweet in my timeline:
Now, I do some work for a project that I'm not at liberty to talk about because it hasn't launched yet, but I recognized that the information in the Tweet and the accompanying article is completely out of character for Zuckerberg. I won't claim that Zuckerberg is a full on liberal, and his company's approach to privacy sucks. But his largest charitable/political contributions to date have gone to revive the Newark, New Jersey school system, and to help the poor in the Bay Area. The fact of the matter is, he's been trying to rehab his image since "The Social Network" became a hit, and this wouldn't do that.
So, when someone makes a claim like the above, it makes me want to look deeper. And as I started digging, I found out that the group in question, FWD.us, is focused on three things; immigration, education and science. Many of the key players in this project actually have high profiles in the development of alternative energy sources, so the accusations made don't quite pass a smell test.
But what really got my curiosity moving at the speed of light was when I saw a connection to a group called "Americans for a Conservative Direction," which is led by Haley Barbour, of all people, and has another member of the Facebook team on it, not Zuckerberg. This group has created two ads, and one is "supporting" Lindsey Graham:
First of all, it's cheap and poorly produced, which is not Zuckerberg's MO. And it's also not really clear it even supports Graham. It features a bunch of Graham quotes, but a clear point of view is not present. Compare it with the FWD.us website, which it's slick and well-produced. Something is up.
A whole bunch of lefty organizations and blogs have referred to Americans for a Conservative Direction as a "subsidiary" of FWD.us. There is little evidence of this connection; all roads lead to an Alexander Burns article in Politico. Frankly, I trust Burns, and given the overlap of key personnel between FWD.com and Americans for a Conservative Direction, it's likely that what Burns is saying is true. But even if that's the case, the above Tweet and the Business Insider article, and the lazy lefties who are attributing this ad to Zuckerberg seem to have blown off some critical information.
This is directly from the Politico article (emphasis added):
The conservative-oriented FWD.us affiliate running the ads has assembled its own blue-chip board of advisers, including former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour; Sally Bradshaw, the former chief of staff to Jeb Bush; Dan Senor and Joel Kaplan, the former George W. Bush advisers; and Rob Jesmer, the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee who serves as the campaign manager for FWD.us.
FWD.us, a registered not-for-profit, will also have an arm focused on reaching out to progressive and independent voters, dubbed the Council for American Job Growth. Both affiliate groups are incorporated as LLCs.
And while both entities will be funded through the FWD.us umbrella organization, strategists said they will have independent boards to shape their political activity.
Put simply, Zuckerberg's money, and the money of the other tech billionaires involved in this project, will go to two groups, in an attempt to be "fair" to everyone. They will create a liberal and a conservative group to lobby Congress. They supply the money, but the boards of these two groups each get to decide what to do with it. It would be as if, say, George Soros, gave money to MoveOn. Ahem.
That means the conservative group and the independent/progressive group will have full autonomy. That makes the implication made in the Tweet and the article completely and utterly off base. FWD.us has a goal right now; to pass immigration reform. And they are doing what they can to make that happen. I don't happen to agree with Zuckerberg's approach; playing both sides of the field rarely works. But it doesn't mean he's advocating for the Keystone XL pipeline or trashing the Obama Administration or Obamacare. That insinuation has no basis in fact. None. It would be as if you gave $20 to your uncle and he used it to buy Ripple and stand on the street corner singing the praises of George W. Bush. Would it be correct to claim you support Bush?
This is why we all need to look deeper than the first thing we read. Being simple-minded about such things is the right wing's territory. We have to be better than that.