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Facebook's lobbying climbs to record level

Tech company seeks friends — and influence — in Washington

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 Updated:

The online social networking giant Facebook is searching for friends in the nation's capital faster than ever.

When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, the company had no federal lobbyists in Washington, D.C., but since then, Facebook's lobbying expenditures have soared. During the third quarter of 2013 alone, Facebook reported spending $1.4 million on lobbying — it's second-highest quarterly amount since it first hired federal lobbyists in mid-2009.

Since then, Facebook has spent $10.7 million on lobbying, including nearly $5 million so far this year, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of records filed with the U.S. Senate. No matter what it spends during the final quarter of the year, 2013 will be a record year for the company.

In addition to its own in-house lobbyists, Facebook also employs the services of five professional lobbying shops: Elmendorf Ryan, Patton Boggs LLP, Peck Madigan Jones, Steptoe & Johnson LLP and Stewart Strategies and Solutions LLC.

During this year's third quarter, Facebook lobbied on a host of issues including “privacy, security, protecting children and online safety,” as the Center for Public Integrity previously noted. The company also reported being active around "general electronic privacy issues including geolocation information" and "discussions urging more transparency and flexibility around national security-related orders."

Facebook and many of its tech counterparts have been embroiled in controversy following revelations earlier this year by contractor Edward Snowden about National Security Agency surveillance measures.

Facebook's political action committee — which it launched in the autumn of 2011 — is also on pace for a record-setting year.

The PAC, which most recently submitted a financial report to the Federal Election Commission in July, raised $203,000 during the first six months of 2013. That's up from $175,000 in all of 2012, and $170,000 in 2011.

Records show that Facebook's PAC doled out $105,000 between January and June to other PACs and politicians, including leaders in both parties.

Among the beneficiaries who have collected $5,000 from Facebook's PAC this year are Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's leadership PAC; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

A spokesperson for Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Update Oct. 23, 2013, 4:06 p.m.: Facebook spokeswoman Jodi Seth provided this statement in an email: "Our work in Washington demonstrates our commitment  to protecting the billion plus people who use our service and promoting the value of innovation to the U.S. economy.")