Russ Feingold is going after Facebook.

In an email to supporters of his advocacy group, Progressives United, which pushes to reduce the influence of corporate money in elections, the former senator blasted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, accusing the billionaire of running “dirty” political ads through a group set up as his company’s lobbying arm, FWD.us.

The ads that drew Feingold’s ire have run in a handful of right-leaning states and praise incumbent senators for supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The thing is, FWD.us doesn’t care about energy policy. According to its website, the group is dedicated entirely to reforming immigration policy. But it is running the ads as favors to senators who are likely to support a comprehensive immigration reform bill but are under pressure from conservative voters in their states to oppose it.

“They think running these ads will help their allies, so all other concerns fly out the window,” said Feingold in the email.

It’s basically a huge campaign contribution, but instead of writing a check to Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, you run an ad campaign in his state boasting of his support for Alaska’s oil industry.

In protest, a number of progressive and environmental groups, including Progressives United, the Sierra Club, Democracy for America, CREDO and the League of Conservation Voters, are no longer advertising on Facebook. They are urging others to pull their ads as well.

In its denunciation of the social media mogul, the coalition nevertheless heaps praise on Facebook as an institution of grass-roots democracy — a tool it ultimately hopes will doom Zuckerberg’s “cynical inside game.”

“(Facebook) was built for us: everyday citizens sharing information on a social network. And we can use it to organize and call out the abuses of Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, for his runaround lobbying strategy. But this will only be powerful if so many people 'like' this page that Zuckerberg can't ignore it.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the coalition's Facebook page had roughly 6,000 'likes.' For a network with over a billion members, that number will likely have to get considerably higher in the coming days before Zuckerberg gets nervous.

FWD.us, like many political groups, claims to be an “issues advocacy” organization. It has applied to the Internal Revenue Service to be classified as a 501(c)4 group, meaning it would not have to disclose its spending or donors.

Cole Leystra, executive director of Progressives United, said the fact that the ads FWD.us is running have nothing to do with the group’s proclaimed mission demonstrate with particular poignancy that the TV spots are “phony issue ads,” ads that serve to influence an election, rather than to educate the public on policy.

“This is just very blatant,” he said. “(The group hasn’t) been dishonest about the fact that they’re running these ads to provide cover for these senators on immigration.”

It is not that rare, of course, for “issue advocacy groups” to run TV spots on topics outside of their domains. A good example in Wisconsin would be Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which this spring ran an ad touting state Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack for being tough on sex offenders. Reducing crime is not one of the nine issues WMC promotes on its website.

Jack Craver is the Capital Times political reporter, focusing on elections, candidates and campaign finance.

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(24) comments

PoliticalFodder

Russ Feingold was not an ineffective Senator he was a Senator working in a system that became ever more corrupt as he spoke that truth to the people. He saw the corruption and got the McCain/Feingold Campaign finance reform passed but the the Republicans did an end run around it with the Citizen's United case which allowed corporations to put unlimited amount of undisclosed money into elections. Russ Feingold knew this when people wanted him to run against Walker, he experienced it when he lost his seat. The money of corporations allow their candidate to have the loudest most persistent megaphone drowning out other voices. If you add to that the issues we have with computerized voting perhaps he felt it would be a futile effort. He has also been working on getting citizen's united overturned so that we can have elections that allow for people other than corporate owned politicians from running and winning. Russ Feingold is one of the most upstanding Senators we have ever had I would love to see him as governor but I think he would be an even better Supreme Court Judge when one needs to be replaced. If we had listened to Russ Feingold we would have never gone to war in Iraq or had our civil rights signed away with the patriot act.

FYI - for the pipeline supporters you have no idea what is going on in the real world. Do some research on the toxic spills, polluted environment and the fact that none of this sludge is staying here, none. It would also be a good idea for you to do more research on Exxon especially on how much of a subsidies ( corporate welfare ) they get every year and have been getting for 100 years. They don't pay any taxes, we give them back money. Look it up.

196ski
196ski

Do you have a source for your claims on Exxon?
The Wall Street Journal did a review of companies that paid the most in income tax.
1. Exxon Mobile $31.05 billion
2. Chevron $20.00 billion
3. Apple $14.21 billion
4. Wells Fargo $9.10 billion
5. Walmart $7.98 billion

The rest of the top 10 can be found here:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2013/03/17/companies-paying-highest-income-taxes/1991313/

NotACynic
NotACynic

There's an Exxon Mobile?

MagnusP

Wow, political ads run by someone with a point of view. I am shocked! Shocked I tell you!

The x senator bowed out of the game. Now he should just go get a life.

KamFung asChin Ho

Good for Zuck. We need that pipeline built. of course warren buffet doesnt want it cuz he wants it to all go by truck and rail (which he owns) and is a much more dangerous tport method and a much greater carbon footprint! Build the pipeline, tell the arabs, venezuelans, and nigerians to sell there oil to somebody else since we wont need it!

that dirty yucky tar sands, we only want clean pretty oil in our pipelines! grow up greenies...

NotACynic
NotACynic

So you figure that'll be 'our' oil. Why?

KamFung asChin Ho

it will be in the possession of american companies and american refineries. It is ours in the sense that it will produce jobs and fuel and profits ( my guess is even though you hate corporations you probably own a share of stock or two?). If we (american companies/refineries) dont take it it via pipeline (the safest tport method) it will come via truck or rail: more carbon spew and more potential for spills, or the canadians will take it to our pals in china and we can continue to buy from our dear pals the saudis.
That help?

NotACynic
NotACynic

It will be in the possession of multi-national companies for sale on the world market, at market prices.

Bender
Bender

That "oil" (it's not oil, it's diluted bitumen) is going to be piped to the gulf coast to be refined and then sold overseas. We get the danger of the pipeline and the pollution from the refineries, the Chinese get the refined product, and the multinational oil companies get the profits (on which, they pay almost nothing in US taxes.
Just look at what happen in Kalamazoo Michigan when a much smaller dil-bit pipeline broke. They are still trying to clean that up. You might also look into the fact that when they set up the tax that oil companies pay to cover pipeline spillage, they snuck in a clause that excludes dil-bit pipelines so you, the US citizen, will be stuck with the bill for cleanup. Add on to that the fact that companies like Exxon, who raking in profits on a scale never seen before, have had the tax codes structured so they nothing in taxes (or even get paid by us to do business in the US).

KamFung asChin Ho

ever owned any exxon stock? Or are you to morally superior for that? Bitumen aint the cleanest hydrocarbon, I will grant you that. And last time I checked I didnt see any of my fellow cheeseheads worry about how clean the air is around Houston. Piping and refining that bitumen creates jobs and wealth and you are grossly overstaing the risks. The stuff is coming out of the ground with or without the pipeline. You want warren buffets choo choos bringing it thru wisky or a pipeline taking it straight to houston? wal mart raking in record profits too. Why the hate for oil and gas companies?

KamFung asChin Ho

oh and this in case you like facts:

These are the companies paying the most in taxes:

1. ExxonMobil
• Income tax expense: $31.05 billion
• Earnings before taxes: $78.73 billion
• Revenue: $428.38 billion
•1-year share price change: 6.56%
• Industry: Oil and gas

here is the link:http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2013/03/17/companies-paying-highest-income-taxes/1991313/

KamFung asChin Ho

Bendre I think you were confusing Exxon with GE, the company that pays no tax and whose CEO is Obama's job creating czar. You just cant make this stuff up....

pakfan1998

when someone donates to an advocacy group for immigration and they then use that donation for advocating a pipeline...no one has an issue with that fact...just that someone pointed it out. strange people here.

Mad-son
Mad-son

That is the point of publicising it. Making the connection.

Zuckerburg has never been anything but an opportunist and a Corporatist. Anyone who has been paying attention, and I don't mean watching the Social Network, knows this.

Your information is theirs to profit from. You agree to it when you sign up to Facebook. Now your money is being used for things you did not intend a use for, was not disclosed to you before you gave it. Get it?

KamFung asChin Ho

yes I get it, and I am absolutely fine with it! Do you get that?

Mad-son
Mad-son

You don't sound like you do. You don't even know that none of that oil will be sold here.

KamFung asChin Ho

I have a funny feeling I know more about that oil than you do, that oil wont be sold at all because it is illegal (at this time) to export oil from the US. It will however be piped to the refineries near houston where it will be converted into distillates and gasoline which will be both consumed here and exported which allows american based jobs and profits and also displaces crude imports form the countries that really dont like us very much. And you have pipelines under your feet at this very moment carrying Nat gas up from the gulf coast. Did you know that? One more pipe from a friendly country to our nations refineries is not going to hurt your love of nature and and all its little creatures. Our carbon footprint is dropping in the US, lets not get to freaked out ok Madd-son. Deep breath now, you can do it!

Cornelius Gotchberg
Cornelius Gotchberg

Feingold sure has some stones. How many people would run the very real risk of getting "unfriended" by the Grand Poobah himself?

The Gotch

mbadger

Many of the new capitalists have seen how successful crony capitalists have been getting in bed with the Obama administration.Who can blame them for advocating for issues they believe in.

IAD

Just a wild guess but I don't think MZ is too worried about RF.

jso

Russ should have taken on Walker; failing that he has nothing more to say to us.

Dode
Dode

Feingold spent 18 years being an ineffective Senator. He'll spend the rest of his life being an ineffective ex-Senator.

PapaLorax

Wait...are these ads running in Facebook?

This is so utterly 'liberal-think' here:
“(Facebook) was built for us: everyday citizens sharing information on a social network."

No Russ..Facebook was built by Zuckerburg and others to fill a need in the marketplace and make money.

xLiberal

Of course, if Zuckerberg would use his money to promote Russ' agenda all would be fine.

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