A New Facebook Lobbying Team Emerges to Match Increasing Political Scrutiny

To date, Facebook has taken a slower pace with building up its presence in Washington, D.C. But now it looks like that’s about to change. Privacy issues in particular have given politicians new reason to assert their role in protecting users and controlling industry.

With the hires earlier this week of experienced political staffers Joel Kaplan and Myriah Jordan, the company has connections deep into both parties, in position to dampen new efforts to regulate it. Here’s a quick sketch of the people and the structure of the growing organization. It’s important to note that Facebook is just starting to fill positions around the world, even as it appears to have completed significant hiring already for the US.

“Facebook’s new global policy team will monitor the local political landscape and act as multilingual, TV-friendly communicators in countries and for cultures that, in many cases, have very different values and laws about privacy and personal communications than the U.S.” as the Mercury News described the new effort in a recent article.

The issues aren’t just about privacy, although various pieces of legislation continue to work their way through parts of Congress, and Facebook occasionally continues to get upset letters from politicians. The bigger picture is that the nature of the Facebook product itself provides both a new platform for politicking and alternatives ways for people to organize themselves, that some have attributed to helping people overthrow governments in Tunisia and Egypt, and create unrest elsewhere. The company needs to show individual politicians how they can benefit from it and win them over before the political body finds ways to curb its power and score .

Because it is based in the US, Facebook has to answer most directly to the US government. Hence the operations headquarters location. Yet it has also been aggressively hiring around the world, especially to combat negative attention from governments in India, Brussels and individual European countries that tend to focus on privacy issues, like Germany.

Here’s a quick look at some of the most visible people on Facebook’s current public policy team, including information on their current jobs and backgrounds. Facebook is clearly following the long-standing US tradition of the “revolving door” of leaders going between top positions in government and industry. Note that the list is meant more to illustrate the trend, rather than to provide complete detail on the people and the organization.

Still, Facebook’s overall staffing and spending are dwarfed by more established lobbying groups in DC, whether traditional industries, unions or other causes who may seek legislation that impacts Facebook. It disclosed spending only $6,600 to help kill a California state privacy bill recently, for example, and a total of $230,000 in the first quarter of this year in DC — the latest part of a trend of increased spending.


Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer — While not directly managing public policy, she served as the chief of staff of the US Treasury under Bill Clinton before becoming a business executive at Google.

Elliot Schrage, vice president of global communications, marketing and public policy — Joining Facebook in 2008, he previously served as Google’s vice president of communications and public affairs under the executive who hired him on to Facebook — Sandberg.

Ted Ullyot, vice president and general counsel — Although he’s been an out of private practice over the years before joining Facebook, Ullyot has held a variety of positions in government, including in the White House as a deputy assistant to George W. Bush, and as the chief of staff at the Justice Department.

Public Policy Team

Marne Levine, vice president of global public policy — Came from being the chief of staff to the White House’s National Economic Council, under Lawrence Summers, in the middle of last year. Kaplan and the other offices around the world report to her, via a stint doing business development at Revolution Money. She reports to Schrage.

United States

Joel Kaplan, vice president of US public policy — Rather than going straight into the tech industry after serving as an aid to George W. Bush, and as the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, Kaplan is coming from an industry background. He was the top lobbyist for Texas-based electrical utility Energy Future Holdings. Going by our past coverage of Facebook job openings, it appears the company has been looking to fill this position since September of last year.

Myriah Jordan, congressional relations policy manager — A former Bush aide, who was the “deputy general counsel for the office of the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction,” most recently general counsel for Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina.

Tim Sparapani, director of public policy — In contrast to the centrist Democrat and solidly Republican staffers on the list, Sparapani’s background is as a “privacy hawk” at the ACLU. When he was hired more than two years ago, the move was clearly meant to increase the perception in DC that Facebook cared about privacy. It’s unclear how his role is changing as a result of the other hires.

Catherine Martin, director of public policy — A former top aide to Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, Jordan was hired in February to be the second director of public policy.

Andrew Noyes, Manager, public policy communications — A former political journalist with the National Journal, Noyes moved over to Facebook in late 2009 to handle US press relations for the team.

Adam Conner, Washington office — The first Facebook hire in DC, his efforts have been aimed at education congresspeople about using Facebook.

William Gonzalez, California — An experienced lobbyist in Sacramento, Gonzalez began representing Facebook at the state capitol in June of last year. As of his hiring, he was reporting to Sparapani.


Richard Allan, director of policy, Europe — Having previously served as a member of parliament in the United Kingdom, Allan is now in charge of European and other international public policy.

Open Positions

Just as striking is Facebook’s new effort to hire around the world. Here’s a list of the lobbying and public relations positions it currently has open on its Careers page. The DC opening below is focused on state-level issues.

Positions Filled Since December

  • Manager, Policy and Growth – Contract (Vietnam)
  • Manager, Public Policy (Washington, DC)
  • Associate, Corporate Communications
  • Policy & Privacy Manager (Brussels)
  • Manager – Privacy and Policy, Europe North (Hamburg or Berlin)
  • Manager, Policy Communications
  • Manager, Policy – New Delhi

[Image credit: jesse owen/Flickr.]