By Ben Geman - 05/01/13 05:50 PM EDT
A top Capitol Hill advocate of the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline is applauding Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s connection — via his political advocacy group FWD.us — for an advertisement that supports the controversial pipeline.
Terry’s tweet is the latest in a political scrum over a recent ad supporting Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that shows Graham praising the Keystone project.
The ad was released by Americans for a Conservative Direction, which is affiliated with FWD.us, a group Zuckerberg recently helped launch to advocate for immigration legislation, education reform and research funding.
Graham, who faces reelection in 2014, is among the architects of the Senate’s bipartisan immigration plan. The ad is designed to emphasize his conservative bona fides to create political space for the immigration push.
“The president says 'I am for all of the above' when it comes to energy. Well those are words coming out of his mouth, they don’t come from his heart. No Keystone pipeline, no drilling in the gulf,” Graham states in the ad, which uses clips of him from various news interviews.
While Terry is praising the ad, several liberal and environmental groups that oppose the Keystone XL pipeline are bashing Zuckerberg and publicizing FWD.us’s connection, via a subsidiary, to the pro-Graham ad.
“The people on Facebook who made Mark Zuckerberg a billionaire need to know that he is using his fortune to bankroll pro-Keystone XL propaganda,” said Becky Bond, political director of CREDO Mobile, the liberal mobile phone company that has an advocacy arm.
Environmentalists are staging a protest outside Facebook's California headquarters on Wednesday.
The tussle over the pro-Graham ad is part of a wider political fight over the pipeline, a proposed TransCanada Corp. project that would bring oil from Alberta’s oil sands across the border en route to Gulf Coast refineries.
The White House is weighing whether to approve the northern leg of the project, which many industry groups and unions support, but environmentalists oppose.
A separate group funded by FWD.us that's backing Democrats, the Council for American Job Growth, released an ad supporting Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who faces reelection next year in his conservative-leaning state.
The Council for American Job Growth maintains an independent board and operations, according to a spokeswoman for FWD.us. However Alida Garcia, a board member for the council, also serves as the coalition and policy director of FWD.us.
That ad, too, has riled activists by touting Begich’s support for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
FWD.us has defended its political outreach strategy in recent days.
“Maintaining two separate entities, Americans for a Conservative Direction and the Council for American Job Growth, to support elected officials across the political spectrum – separately – means that we can more effectively communicate with targeted audiences of their constituents,” FWD.us spokeswoman Kate Hansen told ABC News.
— Jennifer Martinez contributed to this report.