Citing conflicts of interest, Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, the Glover Park Group and TeleMedia Policy Group have all walked away from contracts with Facebook, which upped its spending on lobbying efforts to $1.4 million last year from $351,000 in 2010. While all of the firms and Facebook declined comment, Politico is reporting that the firms are siding with content providers over Internet firms in the growing battle on Capitol Hill.
"They are doing everything they can to ensure that the tech industry and Facebook in particular doesn't have any talent to go up to the Hill," one tech lobbyist said of the content providers like Walt Disney Co., Viacom and Warner Music Group - all of which are represented by Glover Park and all of which felt they were unfairly beat up by Internet giants like Facebook and Google in the recent fight over the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts.
Only one firm, Elmendorf Ryan, remains under contract with Facebook, according to Senate filings. But the Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm probably won't have to look hard to replace the three firms that left; with a initial public offering in the works that could value the company at more than $100 billion, D.C. lobbyists see Facebook as being flush with cash.
"They're having some people taken off the table, but the prospect of working for Facebook if you are a lobbyist, it's like working for Microsoft in the '90s or Google in the 2000s," a Republican consultant told Politico.
On the other hand, Facebook started stepping up its lobbying efforts last year as it pushed towards an initial public offering. While it is not truly a target of SOPA/PIPA, it did stand up as a vocal supporter of the opposition of the bills and may suffer the consequences if the legislation is resurrected.
Meanwhile, many K Street observers are betting the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights the Obama administration announced last week will also increase the need for Web firms to have a lobbying presence in Washington.
"If content's lesson from that is to hire more lobbyists and ensure that they have exclusive relationships with lobbyists, then it's clear that they have not learned that lesson because these issues are not going to be solved through an inside-the-Beltway solution," Markham Erickson, executive director of the NetCoalition, whose members include Google, Amazon, and PayPal, among others, said in an interview with Politico.