Facebook and Washington Cozy Up

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skipping_smallADOTAS – Yup, that was U.S. President Barack Obama yukking it up last night with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as well as a bunch of Facebook staffers and Silicon Valley hobknobbers at the social network’s Palo Alto headquarters last night. Zuck played moderator for a town-hall-style meeting, taking questions from a pretty friendly crowd about the budget and education.

And the friendliness extended both ways — if you go to the White House transcript of the event, search for the word “privacy.” Not a mention. Same with “FTC” and “user.” “Social” only brings up mentions of Social Security and the social compact (OMG! That’s such a socialist idea!).

In the last year several congressmen have stuck their nose into the social network’s privacy hiccoughs, even sending Facebook letters demanding answers to questions about its privacy policy. In response, Facebook has discovered the power the almighty dollar holds over our nation’s capital.

Today TechCrunch reports that Facebook spent $230,000 on government lobbying efforts in the first quarter of 2011, which is more than half of the $350,000 the company spent during the whole of 2010 and about five times as much as it spent in the first quarter of last year.

Of course, that lobbying money is still a drop in the bucket compared to the $5.16 billion Google spent on lobbying in 2010, but Google has a lot more areas of interest than Facebook. While the social network wants avoid the legislative pen of any would-be online privacy champions, Google is mired in anti-trust muck, privacy issues and whatever else can be hurled at it.

However, it seems Zuck has won over the biggest man in DC — maybe we’ll catch Obama roaming the Rose Garden wearing the hoodie Zuck gave him with “Facebook” emblazoned on the back.

Are you paying attention Larry Page? Maybe you should invite Obama to a dinner date with Google cofounder Sergey Brin. OK, I’m just suggesting that because I’d love to see a play/movie called “My Dinner With Sergey.”

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