Cyborg Washington Dollar

Big Tech, Big Cash: Washington’s New Power Players

An updated analysis of the rise in lobbying and campaign contributions from the Big Tech companies: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google

“I can tell you [political spending] plays an important role. Not because the checks are big, but because the way the political process works. Politicians in the United States have events, they have weekend retreats, you have to write a check and then you’re invited and participate.

“So if you work in the government affairs team in the United States, you spend your weekends going to these events; you spend your evenings going to these dinners, and the reason you go is because the PAC writes a check.

“But out of that ongoing effort a relationship evolves and emerges and solidifies … I’m sometimes calling members and asking for their help on green cards, or on visa issues … Or the issues around national security, or privacy …

“There are times when I call people who I don’t personally know, and somebody will say ‘you know, your folks have always shown up for me at my events. And we have a good relationship. Let me see what I can do to help you.’

Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft

––––

“Microsoft’s quiet pursuit to buy TikTok suddenly appeared dead a month ago … so Brad Smith, the tech giant’s president, went to work. He called two dozen lawmakers, telling them that TikTok would be safe in Microsoft’s hands. Within 48 hours, he had what he needed.

New York Times

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress. If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

Mick Mulvaney, former U.S. Representative

Executive Summary

In recent years, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have all come under increased scrutiny for threatening our privacy, democracy, small businesses, and workers.

In the race to amass monopoly power in their respective markets, these corporations have developed predatory business practices that harvest user data for profit[1] and facilitated discrimination by race, religion, national origin,[2] age,[3] and gender.[4] Facebook and Google have wielded unprecedented influence over our democratic process.[5] Amazon has been accused of subjecting workers to unsafe working conditions during COVID-19,[6] while the plurality of its workforce is Black, brown, and/or non-white.[7] All of these companies have killed, rather than fostered innovation.[8]

Increased investments in Washington have allowed these monopolists to harm consumers, workers, and other businesses alike, with relatively little accountability to date. A report Public Citizen released in 2019 (covering up to the 2018 election cycle) detailed how Big Tech corporations have blanketed Capitol Hill with lobbyists and lavished members of Congress with campaign contributions.

This is an update of that report, based on data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics. Since the 2020 election cycle has ended, Public Citizen reevaluated Big Tech’s influence over the government by analyzing the tech companies’ lobbying spending and campaign contributions.

Here are the key findings of this report:

  • Facebook and Amazon are now the two biggest corporate lobbying spenders in the country.[9]
  • Big Tech has eclipsed yesterday’s big lobbying spenders, Big Oil and Big Tobacco. In 2020, Amazon and Facebook spent nearly twice as much as Exxon and Philip Morris on lobbying.
  • During the 2020 election cycle, Big Tech spent $124 million in lobbying and campaign contributions –– breaking its own records from past election cycles.
  • Amazon and Facebook drove most of this growth. From the years of 2018-2020, Amazon increased spending by 30% while Facebook added an astounding 56% to its Washington investment.
  • The four Big Tech companies recruited more lobbyists into their army, increasing its ranks by 40 new lobbyists, from 293 in 2018 to 333 in 2020.[10]
  • Big Tech PACs, lobbyists, and employees contributed over 33% more in the 2020 election cycle than they did in the 2018 cycle, for an increase of over $4 million in funds, and a total of nearly $16.5 million in contributions to the election cycle. This marks the greatest cycle-over-cycle increase in campaign contributions from Big Tech in the ten-year span Public Citizen reviewed.
  • Big Tech’s lobbyists are not just numerous, they are also among the most influential in Washington. Among the 10 lobbyists who were the biggest contributors to the 2020 election cycle, half lobby on behalf of at least one of the four Big Tech companies. Together, just these five lobbyists contributed over $2 million to the 2020 elections.
  • Nearly all (94%) members of Congress with jurisdiction over privacy and antitrust issues have received money from a Big Tech corporate PAC or lobbyist. In total, just in 2020, Big Tech PACs and lobbyists have contributed about $3.2 million to lawmakers tasked with regulating them.

#1 Facebook rank among biggest corporate lobbying spenders in 2020

#2 Amazon rank among biggest corporate lobbying spenders in 2020

$124,000,000 in lobbying and campaign contributions spent by Big Tech during 2020 election cycle

333 Number of lobbyists Big Tech employed in 2020

$16,500,000 Spent by Big Tech in campaign contributions during 2020 election cycle

$3,200,000 Spent by Big Tech on lawmakers tasked with regulating them

Introduction

Previous research from Public Citizen revealed how Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (now organized as a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.) had each dramatically increased their lobbying spending and presence in Washington, D.C. from 2010 to 2018. In the 2010 election cycle, these four companies spent $19.2 million lobbying Congress. In just eight years, their spending grew to $118 million. This trend also held true for political contributions, which grew by more than 400 percent from the 2010 cycle to the 2018 cycle.

Although all four companies pushed staggering amounts of money into D.C., Amazon increased its spending the fastest. From 2016 to 2018, Amazon nearly doubled its number of lobbyists, and for the first time matched the size of Google’s ranks.

This is an update to our 2019 report.

Several new dynamics have altered Big Tech’s strategy in Washington. Since Public Citizen published the 2018 report, the four Big Tech corporations have faced greater legal and regulatory challenges than ever before. At the end of 2020, a slew of antitrust lawsuits were brought against Facebook and Google, with several more expected this year, including some targeting Amazon and Apple.

This report finds that the four companies have massively expanded their Washington influence machines –– eclipsing big spenders of yesterday like Big Oil and Tobacco, and making them among the most powerful corporate interests in Washington. It details their campaign and lobbying spending while providing an overview of their other efforts to influence policy making through advertising, support of researchers, and other means.

Setting new records

Big Tech corporations are now Washington’s biggest spenders

When Public Citizen first reported on Big Tech’s lobbying spending in 2019, we warned that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google lobbyists, consultants, lawyers, and allied researchers were quickly descending upon Washington. Now Big Tech has pervasively infiltrated Washington, and dominated spending in nearly every category of possible influence.

The foundation of the Big Tech companies’ influence are their lobbying teams, which use campaign contributions, existing relationships, and past experience to swing policy in their favor. Public Citizen’s last report described a sixfold increase in Big Tech lobbying spending from 2009 to 2018. Big Tech’s lobbying spending has only increased since then.

In just the past 10 years, Big Tech companies swiftly constructed their lobbying operation to become among the largest in the country. While not even in the top eight spenders in 2017, Facebook and Amazon are now the two largest individual lobbying spenders in Washington (see Table 1). Google briefly topped the list in 2017, but dropped off by 2020.[11]

Facebook and Amazon’s ascent was rapid. Most other corporations that make the top eight list are legacy spenders in Washington. In fact, the four biggest spenders after Facebook and Amazon have been on the leaderboard since 2017. Boeing, which now spends nearly 56% less than Facebook, has been a top eight spender since 2010.

Not only do they stand at the top of the list, Facebook and Amazon lead the pack of corporate lobbying spenders by a significant margin. In fact, Amazon spent about 30% more than the next biggest spender, Comcast (Table 2).

Big Tech eclipses Big Oil and Big Tobacco as big lobbying spenders

Big Tech now outspends, by a large margin, the insidious industries on the decline, Big Oil and Big Tobacco. Figure 1 tracks spending among a few representative corporations known to be big Washington players in these three industries: Exxon Mobil (Big Oil), Philip Morris (Big Tobacco), Amazon, and Facebook (Big Tech). Exxon Mobil (Big Oil), Philip Morris (Big Tobacco), Amazon, and Facebook (Big Tech). In 2010, while Facebook was spending next to nothing on lobbying and Amazon was spending just over $2 million, Exxon and Philip Morris were shelling out over $10 million each in lobbying contracts.

Yet in 2020, spending patterns were much different. Exxon had been divesting from its Washington operation throughout the decade past, but reached a new low in 2020. Throughout the year, Amazon and Facebook spent nearly twice as much as Exxon and Philip Morris did on lobbying.

Amazon and Facebook’s outspending of Exxon and Philip Morris reflects the compounding legislative and regulatory challenges that Big Tech faces in Washington.

Overall trends

Big Tech spent $124 million during the 2020 election cycle

This past election cycle has been the most expensive in political spending to date, and also saw the most lobbying spending and campaign contributions to Congress from Big Tech.[12]

Throughout the 2020 election cycle, Big Tech spent 5.2% more on lobbying and campaign contributions combined than it did in the 2018 cycle. Figure 2 illustrates that both an increase in lobbying spending as well as campaign contributions are behind this boost.

The foundation of Big Tech’s spending: $108 million in lobbying

As with other industries and companies, Big Tech spends far more on lobbying than campaign contributions. This foundation of spending continues to increase as a whole, though at differing rates. While Apple and Google reduced lobbying spending from the 2018 to 2020 cycle, total spending among the four Big Tech corporations still increased. Amazon and Facebook drove the great majority of growth in lobbying spending throughout the last two years.

Figures 3 and 4 illustrate the tremendous investments Amazon and Facebook made in lobbying in the last election cycle, which pushed them to the top of the corporate lobbying spenders list in Table 2. Amazon significantly increased its spending from 2018 to 2020, by 30%. Facebook increased its spending even more, by an astounding 56% in just those two years.

Big Tech’s lobbying corps jumped along with the sector’s overall increased expenditures. Amazon, Apple, and Facebook collectively hired 40 more lobbyists to grow their lobbying corps from 293 in 2018 to 333 in 2020 (Figure 5).[13] The only corporation that lost in its ranks was Google, which in 2020 was down six lobbyists from 103 in 2018.

Big Tech poured $16.5 million into 2020 campaigns

Beyond lobbying spending, Big Tech corporations have a suite of other tactics to influence legislation. Public Citizen analyzed three main campaign contribution streams that will benefit Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google as they work to fight new oversight and regulation: company Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions, company employee contributions of $1,000 or more to a recipient in a cycle, and contributions from the lobbyists that advocate on their behalf. (Note: Apple does not have a corporate PAC, while the three other Big Tech corporations do.)

Just as lobbying spending increased between the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, Big Tech contributions to political campaigns also increased to the highest totals ever (see Figure 6).

Google is a significant outlier in the trend of Big Tech’s spending growth, as its spending has declined in recent years. The search engine giant’s divestment did not start in 2020, and their motivations are unclear. Over the last few years, it has been reported that Google is decreasing spending due to “corporate restructuring” –– a fairly obscure explanation.[14]

Big Tech hired an army of revolving door lobbyists

Big Tech not only has its foot in the door of D.C.; it also commands its own revolving door in and out of government. The term “revolving door” refers to when corporations, lobby shops and law firms hire government officials and/or have employees go into government (the “reverse revolving door”).

Recruiting former congressional staffers, FTC officials, and other government officials to lobby their former colleagues, bosses and agencies is central to Big Tech’s political influence strategy.[15] This leverage is being wielded to impact D.C. decisionmakers on everything from privacy regulations to tax law.[16] With the change in power in the White House and Senate after the 2020 elections, Big Tech companies are fast maneuvering to ensure they have key Democratic operatives at the helm of their lobby operations.

Amazon’s head of policy is tenured in Biden-world

Though not new to Amazon, Jay Carney, the company’s Senior Vice President for policy and press, will likely have much more access in this administration than ever before. Carney previously served as White House press secretary under President Obama and communications director for then-Vice President Biden.[17] Carney donated close to $3,000 to President Biden during his 2020 presidential campaign.[18]

Another key player at Amazon is Brian Huseman, the vice president of public policy. Huseman is a former Federal Trade Commission official.[19]

The monopolist’s revolving-door roster extends far beyond Jay Carney and Brian Huseman. A recent Mother Jones investigation found that Amazon hired at least 247 former U.S. government officials and employees in the past 10 years.[20]

Lastly, Amazon has hired two Trump confidantes since 2017, Jeff Miller and Brian Ballard, both of whom Public Citizen has exposed as key lobbyists for business interests at large throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.[21]

Apple’s former policy head has already joined Biden’s team

Before he secured his presidential election victory, President Biden hired Cynthia Hogan, who was then working as vice president for public policy and government affairs at Apple.[22] Hogan is a longtime Biden aide, having served as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee when Biden was chair. She also later worked for then-Vice President Biden as counsel.

Facebook moves to swap out Republican lobbyists with Democrats

During the Trump administration, Facebook’s influential head of government affairs, Joel Kaplan was credited with assisting Mark Zuckerberg as he strived to cultivate political relationships on both sides of the aisle.[23]

For example, The New York Times reported on a trip Zuckerberg took to Washington in September 2019. Zuckerberg was met with a packed agenda: He started with dinner at a private room in an upscale restaurant with prominent Democrats including Sen. Warner (D-Va.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and independent Sen. King (ID-Maine). The next day, Kaplan arranged a meeting for Zuckerberg and himself with Jared Kushner (son-in-law of President Trump) and President Trump himself. Just a month later, Zuckerberg was invited back to the White House for a private dinner.[24]

Kaplan and Facebook are now scrambling to find lead lobbyists with Democratic bonafides. Early in 2021, Axios reported that Kaplan is headhunting for a new U.S. policy chief.[25] Kaplan moved Kevin Martin, former Republican FCC chair and head Facebook lobbyist, to a role on the corporation’s economic policy team. While it remains to be seen who will fill that role, it seems that Facebook aims for the new lobbying head to be a friendly face to President Biden and the newly empowered Democratic Congress.

Google hired Democratic operative and former Obama staffer

In February 2021, Google hired Anne Wall, former Obama staffer, aide at U.S. Treasury, and floor director for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), to lead U.S. and Canada government affairs at Google. Wall will report to Google’s vice president of government affairs and public policy, Mark Isakowitz (notably, a Republican).[26] Wall brings a full Rolodex to the role: For the past five years, she has been a lobbyist for Duberstein Group, and boasts over a decade of Democratic work in D.C.[27]

Big Tech lobbyists are among the biggest spenders in Washington

In addition to the largest lobbying armies and budgets in Washington, Big Tech companies have recruited many of Washington’s most free-spending and influential lobbyists. Table 3 lists the top 10 lobbyists that contributed the most funds to political campaigns in 2020. Among the 10, half lobbied on behalf of at least one Big Tech corporation that year. In total, the five Big Tech lobbyists on this list have contributed over $2 million to campaigns during the 2020 election cycle.

Big Tech shelled out for 94% of key legislators

Big Tech campaign spending is directed heavily at the four committees in Congress with jurisdiction over antitrust and privacy legislation: the House Judiciary Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Tables 1 through 4 in the Appendix list the amount of campaign contributions the members of these committees have received from Big Tech PACs and lobbyists.

Almost all of the members of these committees, 134 out of 142, or 94%, received a financial contribution from a Big Tech corporate PAC or lobbyist in 2020. Democrats and Republicans alike benefitted from these funds, which totaled more than $3 million. Figure 7 show how much Big Tech PACs and lobbyists have given to members of these committees, respectively.

Notably, contributions are not skewed too heavily to one side of the aisle. Democrats, in sum, received $1.7 million in 2020, while Republicans received $1.4 million. But as Figure 8 illustrates, there is variance in giving across committees. While contributions in the Commerce committees are somewhat comparable, there is much more variance in contributions between the Judiciary committees.

Importantly, the mere fact of a corporate contribution does not automatically compromise a legislator. Some legislators and committees who have received Big Tech PAC and lobbyist funds have conducted the most thorough investigations and hearings on Big Tech in decades, and have introduced the boldest legislation to stifle the corporation’s unfettered growth to date. At the same time, there is no doubt companies direct their campaign funds in order to gain access and influence.

Other strategies

For Big Tech and beyond, the political spending covered in this report represents just one piece of the greater puzzle of influence-peddling in Washington, and across the country. Other important pieces of Big Tech’s spending include: state and local election spending, dark money and more. It is impossible to quantify how large these additional pieces of the pie are, because of the lack of transparency standards in many of these money flows.

Dark money organizations such as trade associations and 501(c)(4) organizations can accept unlimited, undisclosed amounts of money from corporations and channel that money into efforts to influence elections.

Funding pro Big Tech research and writing

Some streams of funding have garnered more attention in recent years. These include funding think tanks, as well as academics, who may research, advocate, and publish in favor of Big Tech companies, without necessarily disclosing their benefactors.

In a House Judiciary Antitrust subcommittee hearing in February 2021 about competition in digital markets, Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) questioned witness Tad Lipsky about the funding for his organization, the Global Antitrust Institute (GAI) at George Mason University. Dissatisfied with Lipsky’s response, Representative Jones alleged that 60% of GAI’s budget in 2019 was from Big Tech corporations like Google and Amazon.[28]

This stream of funding is not new. Big Tech corporations are known to have funded trade associations, advocacy organizations and think tanks across the political spectrum, including groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Conservative Union, the Brookings Institution, and the Center for American Progress.[29] Speaking to the insidious but covert impacts of undisclosed conflicts of interest, Rep. Jones concluded his line of questioning by stating, “Secret corporate funding has undermined our democracy.”

This funding, of course, is also not new to corporate strategy in Washington. In a recent internal all staff meeting at Facebook, one employee asked about how Facebook is different from Big Tobacco, when it funds research about the societal problems it is causing.[30]

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google also sponsor individual academics, who often fail to appropriately disclose conflicts of interest as a result of this funding. As one example, Fiona Scott Morton, a Yale University economist who has published multiple influential articles on the antitrust cases against Facebook and Google, was found in 2020 to have received funds from Amazon and Apple –– yet failed to disclose them until they was uncovered by reporters.[31]

More recently, it was reported that New York Times opinion columnist David Brooks, while receiving funds from Facebook (indirectly through the Aspen Institute), was also writing and publishing positive words about Facebook as a “guest blogger.”[32] Brooks, too, failed to disclose his donors before this was reported by journalists.

One journalist calls these practices the “soft corruption of Big Tech,” and alleges that the corporations also pay for small businesses to write in local newspapers in the corporate interest’s favor.[33]

Using advertisements to change public perception

Big Tech corporations exert influence not just through formal lobbying or campaign contributions, but also through advertisements.

Recent advertisements in Politico Pro, the paid Washington-insider publication whose readership includes Members of Congress, their staff, lobbyists, and public interest groups like Public Citizen, have been sponsored by Facebook, and featured their advertisements advocating for “updated internet regulations.”

Just in the past month, an Axios newsletter has featured several advertisements from Amazon about raising the federal minimum wage, from Facebook about passing internet regulations, and from Google flaunting its new philanthropic enterprises.

Reporters have noted the Amazon advertisements supporting a minimum wage increase have flooded not only email newsletters and online publications, but also podcasts, Twitter, and newspapers like The New York Times.[34] (The Tech Transparency Project found that Facebook has been similarly papering the town with its PR. In about a month leading up to Mark Zuckerberg’s hearing before Congress on March 25, the Project identified 56 messages sponsored by Facebook across ten political newsletters.[35])

Meanwhile, Amazon has come under fire for unsafe working conditions under COVID,[36] tamping down on worker efforts to unionize[37] (by spying on workers,[38] illegally interrogating and threatening them,[39] and retaliating against those who organize[40]), and exhausting their workers with unreasonable, inhumane expectations for productivity and efficiency.[41]

Battling in state houses for landmark legislation

In recent years, Big Tech has also taken its privacy and antitrust battles from the Capitol all the way to state houses. In March, the governor of Virginia signed a state privacy bill, which privacy advocates have deemed is too friendly to industry, and too weak for consumers.[42] The bill was, however, endorsed by Amazon, Microsoft, and other tech trade industry groups.[43] Other states such as Washington, New Jersey, and Utah are considering state privacy bills as well –– and Big Tech is likely to be in the rooms with lawmakers before they pass.[44]

On the antitrust side, the Arizona House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would help reduce the dominance and power of Apple and Google in their respective app stores.[45] But the monopolists put up a good fight: in the lead up to the vote on the bill, they hired “every lobbyist in town.”[46]

Tech companies not covered in this report, like Uber, Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, and Postmates, spent a stunning $200 million lobbying for a ballot initiative that would reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors, thereby reducing cost and liability for themselves.[47]  Together, the tech companies made this the most expensive California ballot initiative in history –– and won. (Meanwhile, a UK court ruled in opposition to Uber, concluding drivers should be classified as employees.[48])

Conclusion

Big Tech’s increasingly dominant role in our economy and everyday lives is worsening social problems that need a political response. Yet as Big Tech converts its enormous economic and social power into political influence, our political system is hamstrung from addressing those increasingly serious issues. This problem is reflective both of Big Tech’s extraordinary wealth and power and a broken political system that works for giant corporations but not the rest of us. It is not susceptible to easy solutions.

A starting point, thrown into sharp relief by the broad corporate financial support for Members of Congress who refused to recognize the results of the November 2020 presidential election, would be for Big Tech companies to end their political spending.

In January of this year, Public Citizen joined 50 other groups in an open letter calling on corporate America to cease all of its political spending –– not just its PAC contributions to the 147 members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 president election. The letter details all the steps corporations should take to truly end their electioneering efforts.

We call specifically on Big Tech corporations, once again, to:

  • Shut down its PACs immediately.
  • End all super PAC contributions.
  • End all contributions to dark money groups for electioneering.
  • End all spending to influence elections at the state and local level, and fully disclose how much and to which intermediaries they contribute.

These recommendations are just a starting point to fix a broken campaign finance system that empowers big corporations. As a minimum measure, corporations should be required to disclose their political spending, as a petition pending consideration at the Securities and Exchange Commission requests. A more holistic set of solutions is contained in the For the People Act (HR1/S1).

When it comes to Big Tech influence via the revolving door, Public Citizen has called on the Biden administration not to hire former Big Tech employees or representatives. In November 2020, Public Citizen joined 32 groups in a letter urging President Biden to reject Big Tech appointments to his cabinet. Then in January 2021, Public Citizen joined 46 other groups in another letter, this time specifically urging President Biden to appoint antitrust enforcers without Big Tech ties. We reiterate these calls to President Biden to shut the revolving door from government in and out of Big Tech once more.

More systemic solutions are also required. To shut the revolving door for good, Public Citizen recommends that the federal government:

  • Require that former executives and lobbyists who enter government recuse themselves from official actions that specifically affect former employers for two years after leaving their employ.
  • Prohibit government officials from negotiating future employment with private businesses that are affected by their official actions, unless waived under exceptional circumstances.
  • Clear all waivers of conflict-of-interest regulations through a single agency – the Office of Government Ethics – and make the request and approval or denial a matter of public record.

We also call for reforms in lobbying disclosures:

  • End a major loophole as to who counts as a registered lobbyist. The law would be changed so that a person need only spend 12 hours/quarter to be required to register as a lobbyist; current law requires a person to spend 20% of their time engaging in lobbying activities before having to register.
  • Disclose more lobbying information. Lobbying firms and organizations would be required to disclose more information about their activities, including contacts with all congressional offices, committees, and federal agencies; provide a list of all bills and topics regarding the lobbying activity that was conducted; and identify all persons who engaged in “lobbying activities” or “lobbying support.”

Lastly, the Securities and Exchange Commission should move forward with a rule requiring corporations to disclose their political activity. Public Citizen is excited about the momentum around this issue, and urges the federal government to take action on it.

When a mid-level marketing employee at Facebook learned about her employer’s $20 million annual spend on lobbying, she barely blinked. She said, “I’m going to spend that much on marketing… this month.” Her nonchalance illustrates the scale of the problem just as surely as the data presented in this report does. (Indeed, Facebook spent $11.6 B in marketing in just 2020.[49])

As Brad Smith of Microsoft indicated in the comment at the beginning of this report, Big Tech’s political spending makes a huge difference, more than our democracy can tolerate. We urgently need both solutions directed at offsetting Big Tech’s undue political influence and more systemic approaches to the problem of Big Money dominance of our political system.

Appendix

Table 1: House Judiciary Committee Members received over $500k in Big Tech campaign contributions

Contributions from PACs and lobbyists in 2020 election cycle

RepresentativePACLobbyistTotal
Jeffries, Hakeem$ 41,000$ 44,521$ 85,521
Lofgren, Zoe$ 50,500$ 7,500$ 58,000
Bass, Karen$ 39,000$ 8,821$ 47,821
Nadler, Jerrold$ 25,000$ 10,500$ 35,500
Swalwell, Eric$ 4,000$ 23,275$ 27,275
Chabot, Steve$ 21,000$ 1,250$ 22,250
Correa, Lou$ 9,000$ 10,100$ 19,100
Neguse, Joseph$ 10,000$ 6,800$ 16,800
Steube, Greg$ 3,500$ 13,100$ 16,600
Johnson, Mike$ 12,000$ 4,200$ 16,200
Cicilline, David$ 5,000$ 10,450$ 15,450
Jordan, Jim$ 10,000$ 3,500$ 13,500
Johnson, Hank$ 9,000$ 4,250$ 13,250
Issa, Darrell$ 10,000$ 3,000$ 13,000
Demings, Val$ 9,500$ 3,375$ 12,875
McBath, Lucy$ -$ 12,808$ 12,808
Deutch, Ted$ 6,000$ 6,150$ 12,150
Raskin, Jamie$ 7,500$ 4,500$ 12,000
Escobar, Veronica$ 8,500$ 3,417$ 11,917
Lieu, Ted$ 9,500$ -$ 9,500
Cohen, Steve$ 8,000$ 1,000$ 9,000
Buck, Ken$ 7,500$ 1,250$ 8,750
Owens, Burgess$ -$ 8,400$ 8,400
Dean, Madeleine$ 7,000$ 1,250$ 8,250
Stanton, Greg$ 6,000$ 2,000$ 8,000
Garcia, Sylvia$ 7,500$ 167$ 7,667
Roy, Chip$ 3,500$ 3,421$ 6,921
Jackson Lee, Sheila$ 5,000$ 250$ 5,250
Scanlon, Mary Gay$ 5,000$ 250$ 5,250
Biggs, Andy$ 3,500$ 1,250$ 4,750
Bishop, Dan$ -$ 3,050$ 3,050
Jayapal, Pramila$ -$ 1,500$ 1,500
Jones, Mondaire$ -$ 1,350$ 1,350
McClintock, Tom$ 1,000$ 250$ 1,250
Massie, Thomas$ 1,000$ -$ 1,000
Bentz, Cliff$ -$ 500$ 500
Fischbach, Michelle$ -$ 500$ 500
Fitzgerald, Scott$ -$ 500$ 500
Ross, Deborah$ -$ 500$ 500
Bush, Cori$ -$ -$ -
Gaetz, Matt$ -$ -$ -
Gohmert, Louie$ -$ -$ -
Spartz, Victoria$ -$ -$ -
Tiffany, Tom$ -$ -$ -

Excludes Eric Swalwell’s presidential campaign contributions

Source: Public Citizen’s analysis of data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org)

Table 2: House Energy and Commerce Committee Members received over $1 million in Big Tech campaign contributions

Contributions from PACs and lobbyists in 2020 election cycle

RepresentativePACLobbyistTotal
Pallone, Frank Jr$ 50,000$ 97,750$ 147,750
Scalise, Steve$ 33,000$ 80,250$ 113,250
Rodgers, Cathy McMorris$ 46,000$ 36,400$ 82,400
Latta, Robert E$ 40,000$ 6,500$ 46,500
Burgess, Michael$ 32,500$ 13,600$ 46,100
Cardenas, Tony$ 31,000$ 12,300$ 43,300
Guthrie, Brett$ 29,000$ 7,500$ 36,500
Upton, Fred$ 11,000$ 19,950$ 30,950
Doyle, Mike$ 22,000$ 7,625$ 29,625
Matsui, Doris$ 22,000$ 6,500$ 28,500
Kinzinger, Adam$ 14,500$ 11,750$ 26,250
Eshoo, Anna$ 17,500$ 6,500$ 24,000
Kelly, Robin$ 15,000$ 7,500$ 22,500
Craig, Angie$ 4,500$ 16,544$ 21,044
O'Halleran, Tom$ 8,500$ 11,775$ 20,275
Armstrong, Kelly$ 11,000$ 8,500$ 19,500
Barragan, Nanette$ 11,500$ 7,750$ 19,250
Rochester, Lisa Blunt$ 11,500$ 7,400$ 18,900
Soto, Darren$ 10,500$ 7,800$ 18,300
Griffith, Morgan$ 14,500$ 3,500$ 18,000
Ruiz, Raul$ 7,000$ 10,800$ 17,800
McEachin, Donald$ 15,000$ 1,750$ 16,750
Pence, Greg$ -$ 15,600$ 15,600
Dingell, Debbie$ 6,500$ 8,880$ 15,380
Clarke, Yvette D$ 13,000$ 2,250$ 15,250
Butterfield, G K$ 9,000$ 6,000$ 15,000
Veasey, Marc$ 7,500$ 7,400$ 14,900
Welch, Peter$ 11,000$ 3,000$ 14,000
DeGette, Diana$ 11,500$ 2,000$ 13,500
Peters, Scott$ 7,500$ 5,625$ 13,125
Fletcher, Lizzie$ 2,000$ 10,588$ 12,588
Castor, Kathy$ 12,500$ -$ 12,500
Tonko, Paul$ 5,500$ 6,250$ 11,750
Rush, Bobby L$ 5,500$ 5,750$ 11,250
Johnson, Bill$ 7,000$ 4,000$ 11,000
Kuster, Ann$ 6,000$ 4,500$ 10,500
Bucshon, Larry$ 7,000$ 2,500$ 9,500
Schrader, Kurt$ 6,000$ 3,000$ 9,000
Bilirakis, Gus$ 6,500$ 1,500$ 8,000
McNerney, Jerry$ 6,000$ 2,000$ 8,000
Rice, Kathleen$ 4,000$ 2,000$ 6,000
Schakowsky, Jan$ 3,000$ 1,500$ 4,500
McKinley, David$ 4,000$ -$ 4,000
Lesko, Debbie$ 3,000$ 750$ 3,750
Trahan, Lori$ -$ 3,250$ 3,250
Dunn, Neal$ -$ 500$ 500
Schrier, Kim$ -$ 238$ 238
Sarbanes, John$ -$ -$ -

Source: Public Citizen’s analysis of data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org)

Table 3: Senate Committee on the Judiciary Members received over $600k in Big Tech campaign contributions

Contributions from PACs and lobbyists in 2020 election cycle

SenatorPACLobbyistTotal
Tillis, Thom$ 30,000$ 106,000$ 136,000
Cornyn, John$ 44,000$ 57,100$ 101,100
Coons, Chris$ 41,000$ 24,750$ 65,750
Graham, Lindsey$ 8,500$ 41,675$ 50,175
Sasse, Ben$ 27,000$ 21,650$ 48,650
Leahy, Patrick$ 23,500$ 21,875$ 45,375
Grassley, Chuck$ 8,500$ 23,250$ 31,750
Durbin, Dick$ 11,000$ 19,900$ 30,900
Lee, Mike$ 17,500$ 7,000$ 24,500
Blackburn, Marsha$ 15,000$ 6,250$ 21,250
Blumenthal, Richard$ -$ 19,000$ 19,000
Cotton, Tom$ 1,000$ 15,000$ 16,000
Hirono, Mazie K$ 12,500$ 3,000$ 15,500
Cruz, Ted$ -$ 10,650$ 10,650
Ossoff, Jon$ -$ 9,684$ 9,684
Kennedy, John$ 2,500$ 2,250$ 4,750
Hawley, Josh$ -$ 4,500$ 4,500
Feinstein, Dianne$ 2,500$ 500$ 3,000
Padilla, Alex$ -$ 2,000$ 2,000
Whitehouse, Sheldon$ -$ 2,000$ 2,000
Booker, Cory$ -$ 1,005$ 1,005
Klobuchar, Amy$ (-500)$ 10$ (-490)

Excludes Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar’s presidential campaign contributions

Source: Public Citizen’s analysis of data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org)

Table 4: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology Members received nearly $900k in Big Tech campaign contributions

Contributions from PACs and lobbyists in 2020 election cycle

SenatorPACLobbyistTotal
Peters, Gary$ 54,500$ 86,344$ 140,844
Thune, John$ 28,000$ 29,150$ 57,150
Capito, Shelley Moore$ 35,000$ 21,500$ 56,500
Sullivan, Dan$ 21,000$ 33,050$ 54,050
Schatz, Brian$ 41,500$ 7,750$ 49,250
Lujan, Ben Ray$ 9,000$ 38,880$ 47,880
Rosen, Jacky$ 20,000$ 26,250$ 46,250
Tester, Jon$ 30,000$ 13,700$ 43,700
Markey, Ed$ -$ 38,914$ 38,914
Sinema, Kyrsten$ 19,500$ 17,500$ 37,000
Wicker, Roger$ 21,000$ 13,800$ 34,800
Warnock, Raphael$ -$ 30,352$ 30,352
Young, Todd$ 20,000$ 10,350$ 30,350
Lee, Mike$ 17,500$ 7,000$ 24,500
Duckworth, Tammy$ 19,000$ 4,750$ 23,750
Blackburn, Marsha$ 15,000$ 6,250$ 21,250
Moran, Jerry$ 12,500$ 8,300$ 20,800
Hickenlooper, John$ -$ 20,561$ 20,561
Blumenthal, Richard$ -$ 19,000$ 19,000
Baldwin, Tammy$ 16,000$ 10$ 16,010
Lummis, Cynthia$ 5,000$ 10,850$ 15,850
Fischer, Deb$ 14,000$ 1,750$ 15,750
Scott, Rick$ -$ 12,200$ 12,200
Blunt, Roy$ 5,000$ 6,500$ 11,500
Cruz, Ted$ -$ 10,650$ 10,650
Johnson, Ron$ 1,000$ 750$ 1,750
Cantwell, Maria$ -$ -$ -
Klobuchar, Amy$ (-500)$ 10$ (-490)

Excludes John Hickenlooper and Amy Klobuchar’s presidential campaign contributions

Source: Public Citizen’s analysis of data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org)

Endnotes

[1] Angela Moscaritolo, What Does Big Tech Know About You? Basically Everything, PC Mag (April 8, 2020), https://www.pcmag.com/news/what-does-big-tech-know-about-you-basically-everything.

[2] Katie Benner et al., Facebook Engages in Housing Discrimination With Its Ad Practices, U.S. Says, N. Y. Times (March 28, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/28/us/politics/facebook-housing-discrimination.html.

[3] Alexia Fernández Campbell, Job Ads on Facebook Discriminated Against Women and Older Workers, EEOC says, Vox (September 25, 2019), https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/9/25/20883446/facebook-job-ads-discrimination.

[4] Jeremy B. Merrill, Google Has Been Allowing Advertisers to Exclude Nonbinary People from Seeing Job Ads, Markup (February 11, 2021), https://themarkup.org/google-the-giant/2021/02/11/google-has-been-allowing-advertisers-to-exclude-nonbinary-people-from-seeing-job-ads.

[5] John Horgan, Big Tech, Out-of-Control Capitalism and the End of Civilization, Scientific American (October 7, 2020), https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/big-tech-out-of-control-capitalism-and-the-end-of-civilization.

[6] Megan Rose Dickey, Amazon Faces Lawsuit Alleging Failure to Provide PPE to Workers During Pandemic, TechCrunch (November 12, 2020), https://techcrunch.com/2020/11/12/amazon-faces-lawsuit-alleging-failure-to-provide-ppe-to-workers-during-pandemic.

[7] Our Workforce Data, Amazon (December 31, 2020), https://www.aboutamazon.com/news/workplace/our-workforce-data.

[8] American tech giants are making life tough for startups, Economist (June 2, 2018), https://www.economist.com/business/2018/06/02/american-tech-giants-are-making-life-tough-for-startups.

[9] Facebook and Amazon are the top two spenders among a list of individual corporate spenders. This list excludes associations, federations, trade groups, and other consolidated corporate spenders such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, which aggregates spending from about 20 subsidiaries across the U.S..

[10] Note that this sum does not represent unique individuals. Since many of these lobbyists have more than one of the four Big Tech companies as clients, they may be counted more than once, for each client they lobby on behalf of.

[11] There are various reports and hypotheses to explain Google’s decreased political spending since 2018, to be discussed later in the report.

[12] Karl Evers-Hillstrom, Most Expensive Ever: 2020 Election Cost $14.4 Billion, OpenSecrets (February 11, 2021), https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2021/02/2020-cycle-cost-14p4-billion-doubling-16.

[13] Note that this sum does not represent unique individuals. Since many of these lobbyists have more than one of the four Big Tech companies as clients, they may be counted more than once, for each client they lobby on behalf of.

[14] Brody Mullins & Ted Mann, Google Axes Lobbyists Amid Growing Government Scrutiny, Wall Street Journal (June 12, 2019), https://www.wsj.com/articles/google-facing-more-scrutiny-overhauls-lobbying-and-public-affairs-operations-11560331803.

[15] Cecilia Kang & Kenneth P. Vogel, Tech Giants Amass a Lobbying Army for an Epic Washington Battle, N. Y. Times (June 5, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/05/us/politics/amazon-apple-facebook-google-lobbying.html.

[16] AJ Dellinger, How the Biggest Tech Companies Spent Half a Billion Dollars Lobbying Congress, Forbes (April 30, 2019), https://www.forbes.com/sites/ajdellinger/2019/04/30/how-the-biggest-tech-companies-spent-half-a-billion-dollars-lobbying-congress/?sh=237c196f57c9.

[17] Revolving Door Employment History section, Jay Carney, OpenSecrets, https://www.opensecrets.org/revolving/rev_summary.php?id=78737.

[18] Person of Interest section, Jay Carney, Revolving Door Project https://therevolvingdoorproject.org/person-of-interest/jay-carney-2.

[19] Cecilia Kang & Kenneth P. Vogel, Tech Giants Amass a Lobbying Army for an Epic Washington Battle, N. Y. Times (June 5, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/05/us/politics/amazon-apple-facebook-google-lobbying.html.

[20] David Corn & Dan Spinelli, Amazon Has Become a Prime Revolving-Door Destination in Washington, Mother Jones (March 2, 2021), https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/03/amazon-has-become-a-prime-revolving-door-destination-in-washington/.

[21] According to ProPublica, Brian Ballard’s lobbying shop’s contract is still active with Amazon, as is Jeff Miller’s.

[22] Brian Heater, Apple Exec Cynthia Hogan Joins Biden’s VP Vetting Team, TechCrunch (April 30, 2020), https://techcrunch.com/2020/04/30/apple-exec-cynthia-hogan-joins-bidens-vp-vetting-team/.

[23] Ryan Mac & Craig Silverman, “Mark Changed The Rules”: How Facebook Went Easy on Alex Jones and Other Right-Wing Figures, Buzzfeed News (February 21, 2021), https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ryanmac/mark-zuckerberg-joel-kaplan-facebook-alex-jones.

[24] Mike Isaac et al., Now More Than Ever, Facebook Is a ‘Mark Zuckerberg Production’, N. Y. Times (May 16, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/16/technology/zuckerberg-facebook-coronavirus.html?smtyp=cur&smid=tw-nytimes.

[25] Ashley Gold, Facebook Seeks a New Head of U.S. Public Policy, Axios (January 29, 2021), https://www.axios.com/facebook-seeks-a-new-head-of-us-public-policy-bc772251-c013-402d-8959-83ab0dd1f2c6.html.

[26] Ashley Gold, Google Hires Former Obama Staffer to Lead External Affairs, AXIOS (February 22, 2021), https://www.axios.com/google-hires-obama-democrat-white-house-8d354f57-0c78-4d3a-9ee1-5bd812365706.html.

[27] Anne Wall, LinkedIn, https://www.linkedin.com/in/anne-wall-1a1b491b9.

[28] Reviving Competition, Part 1: Proposals to Address Gatekeeper Power and Lower Barriers to Entry Online, House Committee on the Judiciary (February 25, 2021), https://judiciary.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=4382 (see video recording starting at 1:37:48).

[29] Cecilia Kang & Kenneth P. Vogel, Tech Giants Amass a Lobbying Army for an Epic Washington Battle, N. Y. Times (June 5, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/05/us/politics/amazon-apple-facebook-google-lobbying.html.

[30] @RMac18, Twitter (March 11, 2021, 2:59 PM), https://twitter.com/RMac18/status/1370101942978969600.

[31] David McLaughlin, Star Critic of Big Tech Has Side Gig Working for Amazon, Apple, Bloomberg (July 17, 2020), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-17/amazon-apple-hire-one-of-big-tech-s-most-prominent-u-s-critics.

[32] Paul Farhi, David Brooks of New York Times Criticized for Undisclosed Financial Ties to Project He Praised, Washington Post (March 4, 2021), https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/david-brooks-facebook-weave-aspen/2021/03/04/2493b798-7d06-11eb-a976-c028a4215c78_story.html.

[33] Alex Kantrowitz, The Soft Corruption of Big Tech’s Antitrust Defense, Big Technology (March 18, 2021), https://bigtechnology.substack.com/p/the-soft-corruption-of-big-techs.

[34] Edward Ongweso Jr, Why Amazon Is Flooding the Country With $15 Minimum Wage Ads, Vice (February 25, 2021), https://www.vice.com/en/article/y3gj87/why-amazon-is-flooding-the-country-with-dollar15-minimum-wage-ads.

[35] Facebook Launches P.R. Blitz Ahead of Zuckerberg Testimony, Tech Transparency Project (March 9, 2021), https://www.techtransparencyproject.org/articles/facebook-launches-pr-blitz-ahead-of-zuckerberg-testimony.

[36] Press Release, NYS Attorney General, Attorney General James Files Lawsuit Against Amazon for Failing to Protect Workers During COVID-19 Pandemic (February 17, 2021), https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/2021/attorney-general-james-files-lawsuit-against-amazon-failing-protect-workers.

[37] Jay Greene, Amazon Fights Aggressively to Defeat Union Drive in Alabama, Fearing a Coming Wave, Washington Post (March 9, 2021), https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/03/09/amazon-union-bessemer-history.

[38] Lauren Kaori Gurley, Secret Amazon Reports Expose the Company’s Surveillance of Labor and Environmental Groups, Vice (November 23, 2020), https://www.vice.com/en/article/5dp3yn/amazon-leaked-reports-expose-spying-warehouse-workers-labor-union-environmental-groups-social-movements.

[39] Lauren Kaori Gurley, Amazon Illegally Interrogated Worker Who Led First COVID-19 Strikes, NLRB Says, Vice (March 22, 2021), https://www.vice.com/en/article/dy8ngk/amazon-interrogated-worker-who-led-first-covid-19-strikes-nlrb-says.

[40] Rachel M. Cohen, Amazon Retaliated Against Chicago Workers Following Spring COVID-19 Protests, NLRB Finds, Intercept (March 17, 2021), https://theintercept.com/2021/03/17/amazon-covid-chicago-nlrb-strike/.

[41] Matt Day & Spencer Soper, Amazon Has Turned a Middle-Class Warehouse Career Into a McJob, Bloomberg (December 17, 2020), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-12-17/amazon-amzn-job-pay-rate-leaves-some-warehouse-employees-homeless.

[42] Hayley Tsukayama, Virginia’s Weak Privacy Bill Is Just What Big Tech Wants, EFF’s Deeplinks Blog (February 25, 2021), https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2021/02/virginias-weak-privacy-bill-just-what-big-tech-wants.

[43] Cat Zakrzewski, Virginia Is Poised to Pass a State Privacy Law, Washington Post (February 11, 2021), https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/02/11/technology-202-virginia-is-poised-pass-state-privacy-law.

[44] Cat Zakrzewski, Virginia Governor Signs Nation’s Second State Consumer Privacy Bill, Washington Post (February 2, 2021), https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/03/02/privacy-tech-data-virgina.

[45] Nick Statt, Arizona Advances Bill Forcing Apple and Google to Allow Fortnite-Style Alternative Payment Options, Verge (March 3, 2021), https://www.theverge.com/2021/3/3/22309284/arizona-app-store-bill-2005-apple-30-percent-cut-bypass-legislation.

[46] Emily Birnbaum, Apple and Google Lobbyists Are Swarming Arizona over a Bill that Would Reform the App Store, Protocol (March 1, 2021), https://www.protocol.com/policy/apple-google-lobbyists-arizona-bill.

[47] Sara Harrison, Big Tech’s Year of Big Political Spending, Markup (December 24, 2020), https://themarkup.org/2020-in-review/2020/12/24/big-techs-year-of-big-political-spending.

[48] Adam Satariano, Uber Drivers Are Entitled to Worker Benefits, a British Court Rules, N. Y. Times (February 19, 2021), https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/19/business/uber-drivers-britain.html.

[49] H. Tankovska, Annual Global Marketing and Sales Costs of Facebook from 2010 to 2020, Statista (February 5, 2021), https://www.statista.com/statistics/506867/facebook-marketing-spending.