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Facebook's Growing Political Importance, Visualized

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, May 17 2012

To commemorate Facebook's impending IPO, the Sunlight Foundation's* reporting group has a new story chronicling Facebook's increasing political spending. Accompanying the story, though, is an instance of their Capitol Words tool that shows Facebook's increasing relevance in Congress as well.

Over at the Sunlight Reporting Group blog, Breanna Edwards notes that while Facebook still allocates relatively little to lobbying and campaign contributions, its political expenditures have increased rapidly in the past three years. The company established a PAC last year.

Sunlight's relatively new Capitol Words tool mines the Congressional Record for mentions of any word or phrase and breaks out who said it. For instance, taking a look at Google's history shows that the company's 2004 IPO was just the beginning of its tenure as a topic of conversation on Capitol Hill:

What was Congress saying about Google in 2004, when that Internet giant became a publicly traded company? Per Capitol Words, it had become a part of daily life — members of Congress talked about doing "the Google search" — but attracted scrutiny with nowhere near the level of sophistication around privacy or influence that Facebook is getting today.

A little note on the graphs: They're not on the same scale, so comparing them side-by-side to relate the two companies' mentions won't do much good. But Facebook pre-IPO is certainly getting more attention in Congress than pre-IPO Google.

* Personal Democracy Media's Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej are senior advisers to the Sunlight Foundation.