SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) - Amid controversy over Facebook's user-content rights policy and lingering rumors of his own political ambitions, Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly has managed to maintain a very low profile in recent months.
But news that the vast social networking site has hired a new director of public policy to work directly with Kelly has fueled rumors Kelly is about to bolt the company to run for California attorney general in 2010.
Various tech Web sites prominently coupled the connection between Facebook's hiring former American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Timothy Sparapani and the rumored political ambitions of Kelly.
"The move could score points for the social networking site in the eyes of online privacy advocates that have expressed concern over its data privacy policies," a blogger wrote. "It also will help Facebook fill a gap if its Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly runs for California Attorney General, as is anticipated."
"As is anticipated," likely overstates the level of interest Kelly has in the race, at least what has been documented publicly to date.
Kelly and Facebook officials have consistently declined to comment about Kelly's interest.
The rumor first began with little more than speculation on a respected tech Web site and was soon picked up by notable sources like the San Francisco Chronicle. But, Kelly's lack of a denail remainss the strongest evidence he's actually running.
Another tech Web site declared Kelly's intention even stronger stating, "Kelly is expected to run for Attorney General of California in 2010, and therefore will be taking a leave of absence at that juncture."
The report offers no further evidence to support the still speculative claim that Kelly is going to run.
Presumably, like the crowded field of Democrats jostling at the starting line, Kelly must wait for Attorney General Jerry Brown to announce his intention to run for governor in 2010, which would clear that way for a competitive Democratic primary.
Then, should Brown run for governor as is expected, Kelly would have to be willing to face opposition from a long list of fellow Democratic candidates, each with its own base. Kelly is likely to be the only candidate with no previous political experience.
Santa Barbara Assemblyman Pedro Nava, San Francisco City Attorney Kamala Harris, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and former Assemblyman Joe Canciamillia, D-Martinez, have all said they intend to run.
Lieu has raised nearly $1 million already and has the strong endorsement of prominent Chinese-American Democrats like Controller John Chiang. Harris is backed by several Bay Area power brokers who first put their financial resources behind President Barack Obama's campaign. Harris was among Obama's earliest supporters, standing with him at his first public announcement of his intention to run for president. She is also likely to be the only woman in the race.
Delgadillo has deep roots in the vast Los Angeles voter base and Nava has strong ties to California's large Hispanic minority.
Kelly would presumably have no problem funding a campaign and could rely on his Silicon Valley connections to make him a credible candidate. And while the latest high-profile new hire by Facebook certainly could be a step toward freeing him to run for office, his candidacy remains far less clear than those already out in front, prepared to run when and if Brown clears the way.