When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is questioned on user privacy protection next week, many of the members of the House and Senate committees in charge of getting answers are lawmakers who have received campaign contributions from company employees and the Facebook PAC.
According to CNBC, the committee that received the highest amount of Facebook contributions is the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will be questioning Zuckerberg on April 11. Members received nearly $381,000 in contributions tied to the social media company since 2007, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In fact, of the 55 members on the committee this year, only nine failed to receive Facebook contributions in the past decade.
Members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which announced that it would hold a joint hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Zuckerberg on Tuesday, came in second with $369,000 in contributions. Judiciary Committee members have received $235,000 in Facebook contributions.
Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore. and Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey announced the committee’s involvement on April 11, saying that they will question Zuckerberg “to shed light on critical consumer data privacy issues and help all Americans better understand what happens to their personal information online.”
And each has received contributions from Facebook: Walden received $27,000, while Pallone got $7,000.
In addition, nearly 30 members of Congress own Facebook stock, including two Democrats on the committee. Massachusetts Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy's investment is worth at least $80,000, while Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader's is worth at least $15,000.
A Facebook spokesman addressed the contributions by explaining that it is important for the company to “develop relationships with elected officials ... who share our vision of an open internet.”
But Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of the campaign finance reform advocacy group Democracy21, said having a committee that received the most contributions from Facebook question its CEO is proof that the system needs to change.
“Powerful interests provide lots of money to the committees that have jurisdiction over them and they do it to gain influence with those members of Congress,” Wertheimer said. “It's a fundamental problem that exists throughout the system and throughout the committee structure, and it undermines public confidence that the members are going to make decisions in the best interests of the American people.”