By Jennifer Martinez - 05/11/13 02:10 AM EDT
Two top executives, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Yammer CEO David Sacks, have dropped out of the political advocacy group co-founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, FWD.us, according to reports.
FWD.us, which was co-founded by other high-profile tech executives, had funded groups that were responsible for running the TV ads. The controversial ads sparked protests by a coalition of environmental and progressive groups, including MoveOn.org, CREDO, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservative Voters.
This week, the groups announced plans to pull their Facebook ads, or withhold purchasing new ones, for at least two weeks to protest the ads.
The executives' departures were first reported by Reuters.
FWD.us, which is set up as a 501(c)(4) organization, is currently focusing its efforts on pushing for comprehensive immigration reform.
The ads were focused on building support for two senators, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who back immigration reform but may face backlash for doing so. The ads touted Graham's support of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and Begich's support of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
Musk, who co-founded Silicon Valley-based electric automaker Tesla, told AllThingsD that his exit from the group was tied to the recent uproar over the ads.
“I agreed to support Fwd.us because there is a genuine need to reform immigration. However, this should not be done at the expense of other important causes,” Musk said in a statement to AllThingsD.
The political advocacy group counts an all-star lineup of tech executives as donors, including Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Joe Green, Zuckerberg's former college roommate at Harvard and founder of Causes.com, is the founder and president of the organization.
"We recognize that not everyone will always agree with or be pleased by our strategy – and we're grateful for the continued support of our dedicated founders and major contributors," FWD.us spokeswoman Kate Hansen said in a statement. "FWD.us remains totally committed to supporting a bipartisan policy agenda that will boost the knowledge economy, including comprehensive immigration reform.
--This report was updated at 10:28 p.m.