Facebook has already quadrupled its Washington team since 2009 and hired a top lobbying firm. Former Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs would give Facebook another man with connections.
The Internet helped propel President Obama to the White House in 2008. Now his former press secretary, Robert Gibbs, could be headed to the one of the Internet's most dominant companies.
Mr. Gibbs is in talks to join Facebook's communications team, a job that could be worth millions in salary and stock options, according to The New York Times. If Gibbs accepts the job, he would be one in a string of Washington veterans to join the Facebook team as it continues to beef up its presence on Capitol Hill.
Since 2009, Facebook's Washington team has grown from two to eight members, with a roster including former Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy Muris, who served under President George W. Bush; Catherine Martin, a deputy assistant for Mr. Bush; and former Obama White House staffer Marne Levine.
Last month, Facebook hired Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock to be its mouthpiece on the Hill. The lobbying firm also works for telecommunications powerhouses Apple and Sprint Nextel.
As Facebook’s privacy policies have come under increased scrutiny, it has relied on its politically connected team members to explain its actions to concerned lawmakers. Last month, Rep. Ed Markey (D) of Massachusetts and Rep. Joe Barton (R), cochairs of the House Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, asked Facebook to address their concerns over its sharing user information with third parties.
Ms. Levine responded in a detailed letter laying out Facebook’s plans, complete with screen grabs showing how Facebook users would be informed before any information was shared. Congressman Markey said in a statement that the response both “pleased” and “encouraged” him.
Though it is unclear how much Gibbs's political experience is playing into Facebook's interest in him, the Times reported that if he took the job, he would be located at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California, not Washington. Its sources added that Gibbs has also been in contact with other employers, and has sought the advice David Axelrod, Obama's former senior adviser.
After leaving the White House in February, Gibbs had said he would work on establishing Obama’s reelection campaign before taking on another job. But Facebook would reportedly like Gibbs to start with them sooner than that. Gibbs acted as a key adviser during Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.