Facebook has hired a Republican Party insider to beef up its political outreach team. Former digital strategist at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Katie Harbath (pictured at left) will join the firm’s small Washington, D.C.-based team as associate manager, policy, just in time for kick-off of the 2012 GOP primary campaign season.
The company considers the role to be a customer service position, aimed at helping legislators and their staffers, congressional committees and political campaigns make better use of Facebook. Until now, Facebook’s U.S. Politics Page, politics-related media partnerships, and Capitol Hill outreach has been handled primarily by two Facebook public policy execs, Adam Conner (see video below) and Andrew Noyes, the firm’s manager, public policy communications.
Harbath, who starts her work with Facebook February 28, served as e-campaign director for Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign, and also handled the GOP.com site for the Republican National Committee during the 2004 election season. In addition, she worked in the online services division at DCI Group, a Republican public affairs firm.
Alex Skatell, former director of new media and technology for the Republican Governors Association, has taken Harbath’s place at the NRSC.
With the onslaught of Republican primary candidates poised to launch their campaigns in earnest soon, Harbath looks like a strategic choice for the company, considering her history of work with the Republican Party and GOP campaigns. Facebook advertising has become an increasingly significant component of digital political campaigns, and it can be surmised that part of Harbath’s work will be focused on promoting Facebook advertising to candidate campaigns and advocacy groups.
Even in between national election cycles, political advertisers are spending on Facebook ads. For instance, conservative economic policy group Americans for Prosperity currently is running Facebook ads, as is Democrat Rahm Emanuel’s campaign for Chicago Mayor.
Recently, some Republican digital consultants have complained that a change to Facebook’s ad serving system is damaging their ad campaigns on the site. The company told ClickZ News last month it was working to alleviate the problem.
Twitter also is building out a D.C. staff. In January, Adam Sharp, was set to begin his work as the company’s government and political partnerships manager. He is charged with helping lawmakers, politicians, and government staff take better advantage of the micro-blogging site.