Facebook is adding lots of new friends in Washington, D.C., if the company’s fourth quarter lobbying report is any indication.
Marking a Facebook first, the company’s lobbying budget broke through the million dollar ceiling last year based on the fourth quarter reports filed recently.
While the final 2011 lobbying figures will be reported later this month, estimates put the last year’s lobbying budget at $1.35 million.
Papers filed with the U.S. government Friday reveal that Facebook spent $440,000 on lobbying in the last quarter of 2011, up 30 percent from the same period a year ago and a whopping 85 percent increase over the $38,117 spent in 2009.
Facebook’s fourth-quarter lobbying budget was the most the company spent in any reporting period last year.
However, Facebook’s lobbying budget is still dwarfed by the amount spent by other major Internet and technology companies.
In comparison, Google spent $3.76 million in the last quarter of 2011.
The increased outreach to policymakers appears to be an industry trend.
Most tech companies — actually most companies and industry trade associations — saw a marked increase in their lobbying budgets in the fourth quarter of 2011 over the same period last year.
One reason could be the business community’s increased confidence in the economy.
Employment figures have been slowly ticking upward. And Congress is generally more active in the year before a presidential election.
It will be interesting to see if Facebook’s federal lobbying budget holds steady or grows in 2012. While the federal government — Congress, the White House and various agencies — will continue to work on issues like privacy, the real action this year will be in the presidential and congressional races, as well as local and state races.
So, how did Facebook spend a cool million in the nation’s capital?
Facebook may have laid the groundwork in 2011 for their recent victory against the Stop Online Piracy Act.
And the social network recently reached a much publicized deal with the Federal Trade Commission over the privacy of consumer data.
The social network also expanded its Washington D.C. office last year, adding top political talent. Additional staff generally portends more activity, and Facebook has been active on several fronts in 2011. The company participated in the recent Hackathon on Capitol Hill and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg met with lawmakers to discuss small business issues.
Facebook’s filing states that its representatives met with members of Congress as well as federal agencies, including the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of State, to name a few.
Topping the list of issues Facebook lobbied on were privacy, online security and safety. Specifically, the company names the Child Online Protection Act, mobile Internet access issues, the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights and the Do-Not-Track Online Act, as well as the Irish Data Protection Act.
Members of Congress are using Facebook in different ways –from buying ads to conducting town halls – -as a vehicle to boost engagement with constituents and expand their support online. Facebook is still a relatively new platform on Capitol Hill, and the social network plans to educate lawmakers about how best to use the technology.
Update: A Facebook spokesman shared this statement with us via email:
This increase represents a continuation of our efforts to explain how our service works as well as the important actions we take to protect people who use our service and promote the value of innovation to our economy.
Do you think Facebook should be spending increased amounts of money on federal lobbying?