WASHINGTON -- Earlier this year, a political advocacy group launched by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg bankrolled a television advertisement that sought to promote an underlying legislative agenda: comprehensive immigration reform.
"The people of West Virginia," a narrator says. "Hardworking, honest, fiercely independent. Just like West Virginia's own senator, Joe Manchin."
The faces of a businessman, coal miner, young woman, and construction worker fade from the television screen and a nondescript disclaimer reads "Paid for by the Council for American Job Growth."
The Council for American Job Growth is a subsidiary of fwd.us, an advocacy group created by Zuckerberg last April.
The organization has since marshaled the connections and resources of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs behind the charge for immigration reform. It lobbied Capitol Hill throughout the immigration debate that consumed Congress during June and July.
Manchin, who had recently emerged from a bruising battle over gun control legislation, initially appeared hesitant to vote for the immigration overhaul bill. He told reporters from USA Today that he might not have the energy to fight yet another battle over a controversial issue like immigration reform.
Manchin nevertheless cast a vote to pass the bill at the end of June and The Council for American Job Growth aired the advertisement less than two weeks later.
"The group seems to be offering carrots to members of Congress who cast tough votes in support of their position," said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "It might just be positive reinforcement: Cast a vote that we like, and we'll run ads that will be helpful to you."
John Sides, an associate professor of Political Science at George Washington University, offered a similar explanation.
"You could easily see the ad as a reward for Manchin's support for immigration reform," he said.
Yet viewers of the ad would never have known that the ad somehow related to the immigration debate.
"Fighting for us in Washington," a narrator says. "A voice for working families, to keep student loans affordable, equal pay for equal work, and fighting to keep our fiscal house in order."
The narrator never discusses immigration.
"That the ad itself doesn't mention immigration reform seems to reflect the perception -- accurate or not -- that Manchin's position on the issue will not necessarily help him in West Virginia," Sides said.
Manchin communications director Jonathan Kott said he never comments on outside strategy. Kott said the office only found out about the ad when it aired.