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.