The Industry

The Congressman Running the Zuckerberg Hearing Represents a District That Gave Facebook Tax Breaks to Build Data Centers

Rep. Greg Walden at a committee hearing.
Rep. Greg Walden might not want to step on Zuckerberg’s toes.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon, is MCing the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday where Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is testifying about his company’s data-sharing practices and other issues.

It’s an important hearing and a rare opportunity for members of the House to demand answers about how his company works and insist on accountability for how careless Facebook has been with their constituents’ personal data—as well as whatever other issues strike them as important, from Russian manipulation to fake news to, apparently, Diamond and Silk. But a handful of representatives in the room may have a good reason to hold their fire—including Walden, the hearing’s chairman.

That’s because Walden represents a district where Facebook does a lot of business. In Prineville, Oregon, which is within Walden’s district, Facebook runs three data centers and in December, according to a report from Oregon Public Broadcasting, the company announced plans to build two more. The agreement to build those facilities came with a promise to add more employees to the 200 people Facebook already has in the area; it came with tax breaks for Facebook from the city.

Walden isn’t the only member of Congress from Oregon questioning Zuckerberg this week with a conflict of interest with the company. Roll Call reported last week that Rep. Kurt Schrader, a democrat from Oregon, owns stock in Facebook with at least $15,000 invested in the social media company. That’s a small amount when compared with the stock that Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, a Democrat from Massachusetts, owns in Facebook. Roll Call reports that Kennedy has $80,000 invested in the company. And on the Senate side, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and questioned Zuckerberg on Tuesday, reportedly owns at least $30,000 in Facebook stock.