Washington • A new political group backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has launched an ad campaign hoping to convince Republicans to support immigration reform.
The spots from Americans for a Conservative Direction are running this week in seven states including Utah, where Sen. Orrin Hatch is the likely target. Hatch is a potential swing vote on the legislation, while Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is among the strong opponents.
It’s the first political ad to hit Utah’s airwaves in 2013, appearing on the top four channels until April 29 and costing the group $28,000.
The 1-minute ad features Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., calling the status quo “de facto amnesty” and touting the bipartisan bill as tough on enforcement. The group said it has spent more than $1 million to run the ad in Utah as well as Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Iowa and Kentucky. A separate spot focused on Sen. Lindsey Graham’s involvement in the legislation is running in his home state of South Carolina.
Americans for a Conservative Direction is an affiliate of the new group Fwd.us, which seeks to promote the interests of Silicon Valley in Washington, D.C., and is funded largely by Zuckerberg. This conservative spin off is led by some prominent Republican operatives, including Rob Jesmer, the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
“Conservative leaders in Congress have put forward a bold plan with the toughest enforcement measures to secure our broken borders and hold those who have broken our laws accountable,” he said.
The campaign underscores how politically touchy the issue of immigration is for Republicans. While most Democrats are on board, the issue has split the GOP since President George W. Bush’s reform push failed in 2007.
Zuckerberg’s interest is in part based on his company’s desire to attract more talent from overseas, an issue Hatch has personally worked on. A provision Hatch helped draft to boost the number of high-tech visas is included in the Senate proposal, but Facebook hasn’t limited its lobbying to ad campaigns. A Washington Post review of the immigration proposal found that it includes a section that may allow Facebook to sidestep a requirement to make a good faith effort to hire an American citizen before looking internationally.