Tech Heavies Unliking Zuckerberg PAC

If you follow the Twitter of FWD.us, the Silicon Valley lobbying group formed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, you’ll see nothing but tweets backing immigration reform. But that’s not all FWD.us has been up to, and its political games are beginning to cost it prominent leaders and supporters.

Tesla and SolarCity’s Elon Musk and early PayPal big and Yammer founder David Sacks quit FWD.us late last week, as controversy swirled over revelations that the political action committee was helping finance ads that backed senators in their home states for supporting drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and constructing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Lindsey Graham ad fwd.us

Screen grab of Lindsey Graham ad (image via Youtube/Americans for a Conservative Direction)

Nine progressive organizations early last week said they would “either pull their existing paid Facebook ads or hold purchases of new ads for a minimum of two weeks in response to the cynical advertising strategy employed by FWD.us, the political organization founded by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.”

On Saturday, one of those groups, the Sierra Club, cheered the move by Musk and Sacks, saying in a release: “FWD.US has chosen the cynical path of engaging in typical Washington tactics, pushing dangerous and dirty fuels that threaten our future just to score a few political points. The Sierra Club applauds Elon Musk and David Sacks for standing up to these divisive tactics.”

The question now is who in the tech-star-studded FWD.us roster of supporters will follow suit. Fingers are being pointed: GigaOM founder Om Malik tweeted, “I think it is time for @marrisameyer @johndoerr @reidhoffman to do the right thing & quit @fwd_us & follow @elonmusk’s lead’; and the activist organization CREDO Action is circulating a petition calling on Tell Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr: Follow Elon Musk’s example and resign from FWD.us.

The ads that got FWD.us were apparently intended to help out some potential immigration allies – Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) in their home states – by highlighting their pro-oil positions. Some think the move by FWD.us this is a necessary way to play the game in Washington, but Musk for one wouldn’t go along with it.

“I agreed to support Fwd.us because there is a genuine need to reform immigration. However, this should not be done at the expense of other important causes,” Musk said in a statement to AllThingsD. “I have spent a lot of time fighting far larger lobbying organizations in D.C. and believe that the right way to win on a cause is to argue the merits of that cause. This statement may surprise some people, but my experience is that most (not all) politicians and their staffs want to do the right thing and eventually do.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.