Facebook's Lobbying Efforts In California Pay Off

Facebook has already spent $102,000 on 2011 lobbying in California.

Facebook has stepped up its lobbying efforts this year in the company’s home state of California, and the investment may be starting to pay off.

In California, the Palo-Alto-based company has been quietly making more friends in the state capital, and just last month scored a major victory in persuading legislators to vote against a bill that would have made more user information private on social networking websites.

The Sacramento Bee says that Facebook’s victory with California Senate Bill 242 was evidence of the social network’s growing influence as it not only spent $102,000 on lobbying in the state, but also made its first contributions to political candidates. That compares to $6,600 the social network zspent on a similar effort earlier this year.

The Sacramento paper points out that the company is engaging in more traditional government affairs activities, such as taking lawmakers to lunch and hosting them for headquarter tours to discuss pending legislation, including Internet privacy and use of social media by registered sex offenders.

None of this activity is unusual. Any innovative and influential company should have a relationship with policymakers and government officials. And any company that hosts a town hall with the President of the U.S. is certainly influential. Besides, as the paper notes, Facebook spends far less in California that some of its technology counterparts, such as AT&T.

The difference now is that Facebook is no longer working “under the radar,” but is clearly and enthusiastically stepping up its lobbying efforts, both a href=”http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/facebooks-lobbying-rose-sharply-in-1q-2011-06″>increased activityfederally and on a state level. Need more proof? Look at the recent hires of Joe Lockhart, former President Bill Clinton’s press secretary, and Tucker Bounds, former spokesman for Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

The real question is where Facebook’s lobbying effort will lead: Could the increased political engagement mean a public offering is imminent? Or with competition such as Google Plus, would friends in government help fend off other social networks?

Only time, and the amount of lobbying dollars spent, may tell. Readers, do you think Facebook’s lobbying is money well spent?