Blogs & Comment

Alini: Mark Zuckerberg sort of friends Keystone XL

But is he a real friend?

Mark Zuckerberg backs the Keystone XL. Or at least his money does, according to liberal blog Think Progress, which, last week, traced the funds for a political ad that touted a Senator’s support for the pipeline all the way to the 28-year old Facebook co-founder and CEO.

On April 10, Zuckerberg announced in a Washington Post op-ed that he’d formed a bipartisan political advocacy group, called, meant to push for comprehensive immigration reform and a shake-up of America’s education system. The group, which has already raised $25 million and hopes to double that amount, according to the Los Angeles Times, counts Bill Gates and LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman among its co-founders, and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer and Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer among the “major contributors.” has two partisan spinoffs, one run by Democratic and one by Republican strategists, charged with supporting whoever in Congress might be persuaded to back the sweeping immigration reform bill recently introduced in the Senate. Within a few days from its launch, according to Think Progress, the conservative arm of Zuckerberg’s umbrella group had created a TV ad for South Carolina’s Republican Senator Lindsay Graham—who favours immigration reform and also TransCanada’s project to pipe western Canadian heavy crude to Texas refineries. Curiously, the advertorial praises the Senator for his pro-Keystone stance, but makes no mention of immigration reform:

What to make of this? To conclude that Zuckerbeg friended the cause of the oilsands seems a bit of stretch. The godfather of Harvard’s most famous dorm-room creation doesn’t seem to have much empathy for oil producers, whom, in the WaPost piece, he comprehensively designated as part of “the economy of the last century,” as opposed to the “knowledge economy” that immigration and education reform are supposed to help usher in.

Still, what one could say with a greater degree of confidence is that Zuckerberg and many of Silicon Valley’s deepest pockets don’t seem to be too hung up on Keystone. The top priority, it seems, is letting foreign engineering students stay on after graduation and getting better math and science classes throughout America: if that means propping up Congressmen who also want a Canadian pipeline, so be it.

That’s certainly good news for Canada. Clearly, not every billionaire in northern California feels the same way as San Francisco former hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer, who recently retired to become “a professional pain in the ass,” in his own words, to anyone promoting the Keystone.

On the other hand, Zuckerberg is clearly a friend of convenience. His lobby group is “committed to showing support for elected officials who promote the policy changes needed to build the knowledge economy,” a spokesperson said in a statement. Find a vulnerable lawmaker who favours an immigration shakeup but has an antipathy for Canada’s oilsands and you might well see the money go into an anti-Keystone ad.

As the saying goes, “god watch my friends…”