ThinkProgress and Rainforest Action Network are not happy with Mark Zuckerberg. Has his PAC gotten him in over his head with politicians willing to gut punch each other to build an oil pipeline? A cautionary tale in the form of everyone’s favorite Bacon-centric party game.
I just read two triumphs of knee-jerk, panic-button journalism from last week from two sources of which I am ordinarily quite fond – one from ThinkProgress and one from Rainforest Action Network. They both accuse Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his political action committee, FWD.US of funneling support (i.e. money) to proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline. Now a week later they’ve gotten some responses back from the PAC which, to the authors’ credits, have been appended onto the pages like so:
Kate Hansen, communications director for FWD.US told ThinkProgress: “FWD.us is committed to showing support for elected officials who promote the policy changes needed to build the knowledge economy. Maintaining two separate entities, Americans for a Conservative Direction & the Council for American Job Growth, to support elected officials across the political spectrum – separately – means that we can more effectively communicate with targeted audiences of their constituents.”
I actually like both ThinkProgress and Rainforest Action Network. It’s this particular brand of journalism slash activism on their parts (among many, many others) that bothers me because it’s only destined to maintain the status quo. Both sides, the right and the left, go crazy about something in the world – usually something the other side said or did. Then they print articles, post tweets, and send emails shouting about this crazy thing and how it must be stopped. And the only way to stop it is to send them money. Both sides profit from exploiting a base wired to meet outrage with hard currency. And as long as the money keeps rolling in there is no incentive to actually change anything.
Both sides are making a tidy profit on the panic industry. And both sides will vehemently deny it if questioned. Actually passing a bill would change things. This is largely why we’ve been panicking for decades about the same social issues, because it’s a donations bonanza that keeps on giving. Eventually this system of crazed contributing where organizations, even ones with good reputations, fight for change in the world while praying that everything stays exactly the same in the office needs to be unraveled by the donors themselves if anything of any importance is ever going to get done.
But that’s business for another post. For now, it just so happens the incredibly scenic route of connections that lead TP and RAN all the way from what promises to be the blueprint for the biggest land-based oil disaster in America’s future history up to Zuck reminds me of everyone’s favorite Kevin Bacon-centric party game. Let’s play Six Degrees of Mark Zuckerberg.
1st Degree) Keystone XL is supported by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Senator Graham has been on the record (both literally and so-to-speak
) as a supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline for quite awhile. I’m sure you’ve read about the clear and present danger this pipeline poses to ecosystems
 from the Canada tar-sands to the Gulf of Mexico. And about the blatant eminent domain bullying by TransCanada
, the hemming and hawing of the Obama administration
, and the turf war between the State Dept and the Environmental Protection Agency
. But in case you missed all that because perhaps you’ve been busy cleaning up the oil spill that destroyed your home somewhere in Missouri or Arkansas , you can scroll down to the notes later or listen to the first hand accounts of the people who will have their property bifurcated and their rights trampled by the pipeline from WBEZ Worldview’s coverage of the 2011 Stop the Pipeline tour as a reminder. Fast-forward to about 37:00 minutes into the recording to hear the litany of technical problems projected to come along with TransCanada’s indecent proposal to middle America.
2nd Degree) Lindsey Graham also supports “comprehensive” immigration reform
The bipartisan, gang of eight immigration reform bill of course offers no real path to citizenship for working class immigrants who will be expected to wait 10 years, pay all back taxes that the federal, state and local governments invent for them to pay, turn around and do the hokey pokey before they can even file an application for a green card
. But somebody stuck the words “immigration reform” on top of it, and so here we are.
3rd Degree) Americans for a Conservative Direction (The Republican half of Zuck’s PAC) and the Council for American Job Growth (the Democratic counterpart) support candidates who support “comprehensive” immigration reform
Here’s where Zuck’s problems start because apparently they don’t ask a whole lot of questions about what you’re going to do with the money after they write the check.
4th Degree) FWD.US funds Americans for a Conservative Direction and the Council for American Job Growth
The tech industry wanted to wield some influence in the immigration debate and other political matters so they formed a single PAC which is incorporated as two separate PACs to deal with each party. So, the same group funds and lobbies both sides of the aisle. It seems a little mind-boggling until you remember how back in 2008 Goldman-Sachs was among the top political donors to both Barack Obama and John McCain
. And look at how Goldman’s doing. So, it’s a good strategy even if it’s a bit, you know, whorish.
5th Degree) And FWD.us was co-founded by…Mark Zuckerberg!!
Not bad. Only 5 degrees. What do I win?
So, here’s my best guess at what actually took place with the information available. Basically it looks like the organization Zuck co-founded pushed money out to candidates who favor this practical joke of an immigration reform bill. Good ol’ Lindsey is just such a candidate. So, he took Zuck’s money, then turned around and spent it on an ad shouting the praises of Keystone XL, railing against the horrors of Obamacare and maybe it might mention immigration in there somewhere. Dirty pool, old man. Dirty pool.
The funniest part about this ad may very well be that it won’t be on Facebook at all anyway because it violates the site’s terms of service. Zuck gets blamed for more than his share of nonsense. He gets blamed for graph search not doing much, and for Facebook’s IPO being way, way over-valued (initially). And most of all he gets blamed for that Timeline update with the two column feed that just made everyone on earth go indiscriminately crazy. Now he’s being blamed for getting royally screwed by a congressman. Imagine! We do not need ThinkProgress and RAN acting the part of the Winklevoss
 twins. It’s just not their style. Let’s lay this one at Lindsey’s doorstep where it belongs and hopefully Zuck will get the hang of the political thing eventually. At a mere 26,645 “likes” at the time of this writing (compared to a billion Facebook users), it’s clear FWD.US has some room for growth. Mark Zuckerberg is a pretty smart guy. Maybe he will discover the secret to not getting screwed by two-faced politicians. And if he does, you better believe that post is going viral.
*UPDATE: Although they were turned into pop-culture fodder as Mark Zuckerberg’s antagonists in Aaron Sorkin’s gripping 2010 account of the early days of Facebook, The Social Network, I nonetheless apologize to twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss for the earlier comparison. It turns out ThinkProgress and Rainforest Action Network were born decades apart and look nothing alike
Fox News Channel – March 2012
Sierra Club, EcoWatch
Truthout – April 22, 2013
Bruce Gellerman, “Living on Earth”,
Public Radio International – Feb 29, 2012
Washington Post – Jan 18, 2012
John M. Broder
New York Times – April 22, 2013
Salon – March 11, 2013
Christian Science Monitor – April 17, 2013
Also: “Goldman Turns Tables on Obama Campaign”
Liz Rappaport & Brody Mullins
Wall Street Journal – Oct 10, 2012
 – Rainforest Action Network formed in 1985. ThinkProgress launched 2004. – Wikipedia