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After losing supporters, refocuses its efforts

Somini Sengupta (via NYT/ AFR) | July 5, 2013
After fumbling badly soon after its debut this spring, the advocacy group is now trying to turn around its image in a bid to fight for immigration overhaul in the House.

Despite the apparent tweaks to its approach, contends its original strategy worked, helping rally senators to pass the landmark immigration bill last week.

"I would argue we've been pretty consistent," said Rob Jesmer, campaign manager at "We are going to use a lot of different things to try and pass this, to try to affect the process."

After weeks of silence, Mr Zuckerberg publicly defended his organisation's strategy in mid-June, calling it necessary and "unique."

"That approach - of actually trying to work with people on both sides - is what makes us unique," he wrote in response to questions on his Facebook page, adding: "And without bringing people in different parties and with different views together, meaningful reform will never happen."

His office declined numerous requests for an interview.

The group has not revealed how much money it has raised so far, saying only that it is enough to make a difference in the process. Nor has it revealed any details on how it plans to sway the Republican-controlled House, except that it will back lawmakers who support a favourable immigration bill.

"I like to think we here in Silicon Valley have a different - and I hope, better - way of doing things," Paul Graham, a venture capitalist and a founder of the technology incubator Y Combinator said about his hopes for

This is precisely what complicates's mission. Its principal constituents, the wealthy entrepreneurs of the valley, like to think of themselves as exceptional - except that some of its tactics have been criticised here precisely for reflecting an unexceptional Beltway approach.

In addition to the controversial ads, hired well-known Washington lobbyists. Its subsidiaries count political veterans like Haley Barbour, a former Mississippi governor and a Republican, and Joe Lockhart, a former spokesman for the Clinton administration, as board members.

Some Washington lobbyists say rewarding lawmakers with costly television ads could have unforeseen consequences for the industry, not least by considerably raising the price of influence.

"Most companies face multiple issues in D.C.," said Alan Davidson, who was Google's legislative director in Washington from 2005 to 2012, and is now a visiting scholar at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"High-profile ad buys on unrelated social issues might help in one debate, but can alienate future allies and set unrealistic expectations," he said. "Hopefully this is just another sign of the tech community's evolution and growing engagement in public policy."

Mr Zuckerberg has said that he chose to tackle immigrationafter hearing the life stories of unauthorised students at a junior high school near Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, where he taught a class. Although Mr Green was his choice to lead, Mr Zuckerberg has taken the heat for the group's missteps. Lately, several people in Silicon Valley have singled out Mr Green for mismanaging the campaign and in turn, damaging Mr Zuckerberg's brand.


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