Zuckerberg’s political group
Elon Musk, CEO of electric-car company Tesla Motors, has left a fledgling political action group founded by Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, after the group bankrolled ads that angered environmentalists and others.
Musk and former PayPal colleague David Sacks — founder of Yammer, which helps companies set up in-house social networks — left FWD.us on Friday, according to various reports.
The launch of FWD.us last month was accompanied by a Zuckerberg-penned opinion piece in the Washington Post that spelled out the group’s goals, including: changes to U.S. immigration law, with an eye toward attracting and keeping talented foreign-born tech and science workers; changes to education policy, with a focus on bolstering science and tech; and increased investment in scientific research.
The list of the group’s supporters reads like a who’s who of the tech-business community, with names like Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, Marissa Mayer, Reed Hastings, and many others.
Recently, FWD.us provided funds for TV ads that support three senators — Republicans Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, and Democrat Mark Begich — whose thinking on immigration is in line with the group’s. But, as Reuters and various other news agencies have explained it, the ads weren’t limited to the topic of immigration but discussed the lawmakers’ general positions, which include — depending on the individual legislator — support for oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Preserve and support for the Keystone XL pipeline, which opponents say would make for an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
“I agreed to support FWD because there is a genuine need to reform immigration,” Tesla’s Musk told All Things Digital, in a statement today. “However, this should not be done at the expense of other important causes. I have spent a lot of time fighting…in D.C. and believe that the right way to win on a cause is to argue the merits of that cause.”
FWD.us backers, however, argue that the group must use “innovative” tactics.
In its take on Musk’s exit, Reuters said FWD.us co-founder Jim Breyer, a venture capitalist at Accel Partners, had defended the funding of the ads: “Our advertising decisions are being made by a very smart team of political operatives who know that passing major reform will require some different and innovative tactics.”
And earlier this week, The New York Times ran an article about the ads and about the reaction to them from a coalition of groups including MoveOn.org, The Sierra Club, and the League of Conservation Voters. That coalition has decided to make a statement by declining to buy ad space on Facebook for a minimum of two weeks. In the Times piece, FWD.us supporter and former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya is quoted as saying that some of the group’s tactics may “ruffle some feathers” but that it’s worth it if FWD can accomplish its goals.
AllThingsD said Facebook declined to comment on its report about Musk’s departure.