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FWD.us Backers Face Progressive Pressure To Drop Support For Mark Zuckerberg Group

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Mark Zuckerberg's pro-immigration reform group, FWD.us, has faced criticism over its political strategy. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Mark Zuckerberg's pro-immigration reform group, FWD.us, has faced criticism over its political strategy. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

WASHINGTON -- Progressive groups are turning up the heat on Mark Zuckerberg's immigration group FWD.us, calling on its backers to pull out in order to protest the organization's political strategy. The push comes after entrepreneurs Elon Musk and David Sacks recently withdrew their support.

Zuckerberg launched FWD.us to press for comprehensive immigration reform. But the group has been heavily criticized by some immigration reform supporters in recent weeks for its television ad campaign praising lawmakers for backing projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

FWD.us has argued that the ads were meant to give home district support to lawmakers backing immigration reform. The ads were up for one week but are no longer on air.

Both CREDO and former Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-Wis.) Progressives United are running campaigns calling on the group's supporters to resign from the organization. They told The Huffington Post that combined, they have had about 63,000 people sign their petitions against FWD.us.

The Huffington Post reached out to the 33 non-Facebook supporters of FWD.us for comment. Spokespeople for 13 of them -- Aditya Agarwal (Dropbox), Drew Houston (Dropbox), Ruchi Sanghvi (Dropbox), Jim Breyer (Accel Partners), Matt Cohler (Benchmark), Bill Gates (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Steve Ballmer (Microsoft), Brad Smith (Microsoft), Josh James (Domo), Mark Pincus (Zynga), Keith Rabois (Khosla Ventures), Padmasree Warrior (Cisco), Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures) -- refused to comment. Only the office of Marissa Mayer at Yahoo reaffirmed her support for the group. The rest did not respond.

CREDO has delivered its petition to Mayer, Zuckerberg, John Doerr (Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers) and Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn). (Here is the letter to Mayer that accompanied the petition.)

"If Marissa Mayer runs Yahoo like she runs her political giving, Yahoo is going to be in trouble," said CREDO Political Director Becky Bond. "It's hard to imagine where she finds the time to dabble in pro-Keystone XL propaganda and dark money politics given she's tasked with the turnaround of her company. I think that for her shareholders, her board, and for the millions of Yahoo users who want to see real action on climate, that her continuing involvement in FWD.us is of grave concern."

When Musk, the founder of the electric carmaker Tesla Motors, pulled his support last week, he told AllThingsD that he was unhappy with the pro-oil ads run by FWD.us.

“I agreed to support Fwd.us because there is a genuine need to reform immigration," Musk said. "However, this should not be done at the expense of other important causes. I have spent a lot of time fighting far larger lobbying organizations in D.C. and believe that the right way to win on a cause is to argue the merits of that cause. This statement may surprise some people, but my experience is that most (not all) politicians and their staffs want to do the right thing and eventually do.”

Progressives United spokesman Josh Orton asked for others to follow the lead.

"Instead of telling the story of how reform would benefit the tech industry, fwd.us has used a cynical, condescending strategy that throws progressive issues under the bus and hides itself behind shadow groups," Orton said. "It's clear that other backers share these concerns and should follow Musk by leaving the group until it changes course."

In response, FWD.us spokeswoman Kate Hansen said FWD.us remains committed to pushing for comprehensive immigration reform.

"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," she said.

Last week, some progressive groups announced they were temporarily pulling their ads from Facebook to protest the FWD.us ad campaign.

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