Facebook wants Obama spokesman to be its friend

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Robert Gibbs, President Barack Obama's White House spokesman for the first two years of the administration, is being courted as a potential media relations chief for Facebook, the social networking site that is gearing up for an expected flotation in 2012.

While no formal deal has been made, Mr Gibbs has been sounding out former White House colleagues and Facebook has been pressing him to abandon plans to help set up Mr Obama's re-election campaign and to join the company instead.

Mr Gibbs left the job of White House spokesman in the major White House reshuffle that followed the defeat of Mr Obama's Democratic party in the mid-term elections last November, and he has been examining an eventual move into the private sector – a move that could net him millions of dollars. At Facebook, where he would likely receive shares or options that could soar in value at a flotation, Mr Gibbs would be joining another White House veteran, Marne Levine, who was chief of staff of Mr Obama's National Economic Council and who joined the social network as a lobbyist last summer.

Facebook has been beefing up the number of executives with political connections as Congress debates new laws governing the internet, including potential privacy rules that could hamper the company's ability to exploit user data to sell advertising.

News of Mr Gibbs' talks with Facebook was reported by The New York Times, and neither the company nor Mr Gibbs would comment yesterday.