A lot of tech giants cast an image of themselves as centers for altruism, social progress and forward-thinking; however, it’s important to keep in mind that they don’t always put their money where their mouth is. Or, more often than not, they don’t talk about where their money goes at all.
We know that these giants of Silicon Valley have the money and the know-how to lobby like the rest of them; what exactly are their interests and what makes a candidate work for them? Let’s look at who pays of what:
In the second quarter of 2015 along, Google spent $4.62 million on lobbying efforts, making it the third largest corporate lobbyist. Facebook spend $2.69 million that quarter (up from 2.44 million), and Amazon spent $2.15 million (up from $1.91 million). Apple has one of the biggest mountains of cash to throw around, but it only spent around $1.23 million.
So what policies are these dollars going towards backing? Well, a lot has to do with patent reform, at least in terms of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. They want lawmakers on their side of the issue to come to power, specifically those who are willing to address issues like intellectual property protection and patent litigation reform. The tech giants lent their support to the proposed Innovation Act in particular, which will attempt t out down the number of lawsuits initiated by patent trolls simply to harm the companies.
Immigration issues are also extremely important to tech giants. They want an easier path for high-skilled foreign workers to enter the country and work for their companies, especially Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who launched an advocacy group called Fwd.us in 2013 that makes fixing the US’s flawed immigration system its main priority.
Other important legal areas? Taxation and trade policies definitely make the list; Facebook lobbied for the extension of the R&D tax credit, while Amazon lobbyists endorsed the Remote Transactions Parity Act of 2015, which would force online stores to pay internet sales tax in each state in which they sell goods.
These issues tend to affect all tech businesses, but there are smaller issues that affect specific tech giants more than others. For example, Google has a substantial presence in schools due to its Chromebooks, so it has pushed policymakers to further endorse connected education.
Apple has an ongoing problem with the United States Justice Department regarding encryption and government requests for data. Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly opposed being expected to give up Apple customers’ data and efforts by the government to force Apple to create “backdoors” to their encryption, which Cook says any hacker would also be able to access.
Amazon wants to deliver packages by drone and has lobbied the FAA regarding the regulation of unmanned aerial vehicles.
Although most of the lobbying done by these companies seems in no way oppositional to public interest, people must still remain vigilant and perhaps curtail corporate lobbying power in general. The FTC’s dropping of their anti-trust investigation into Google’s behavior after Obama’s election (Google was a major donor to his cause) still remains a suspicious and under discussed issue.