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INFLUENCE GAME: Tech, Labor Spar On Immigration

The expansion of H-1B visas is considered the first major victory for Zuckerberg's new nonprofit lobbying organization, FWD.us, which receives financial backing from such big tech names as Bill Gates of Microsoft, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and Napster pioneer Sean Parker. In announcing the group, pronounced "forward us," Zuckerberg in April called for changes so that U.S. businesses could attract "the most-talented and hardest-working people, no matter where they were born."

But support for FWD.us appeared to crack this week after the group's subsidiary ran television ads backing Republican senators who support immigration reform but also unpopular environmental programs, including the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Two backers of FWD.us â¿¿ including PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, who now runs electric-car maker Tesla Motors â¿¿ pulled their support for the group, and several liberal-leaning groups, including the Sierra Club and MoveOn.org, protested the ads.

Frustration by some tech leaders was captured on Twitter, where site co-founder Evan Williams linked to a blog post on his new company's website that accused FWD.us of "employing questionable lobbying techniques, misleading supporters and not being transparent about the underlying values and long-term intentions of the organization."

In an emailed statement, FWD.us spokeswoman Kate Hansen said: "We recognize that not everyone will always agree with or be pleased by our strategy â¿¿ and we're grateful for the continued support of our dedicated founders and major contributors. FWD.us remains totally committed to supporting a bipartisan policy agenda that will boost the knowledge economy, including comprehensive immigration reform."

H-1B visa applications can be complex and often are used when a qualified American candidate can't be found for a specialized job in a specific city. The visa candidate typically costs the company money and time, including extensive paperwork.

The flip side is that once a company is permitted to hire a foreign worker, that employee has little leverage to demand a raise or leave for a company's competitor without putting his or her visa at risk.

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