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Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook Blanket Washington With Campaign Contributions, Lobbyists

Public Citizen Analysis Shows the ‘Big 4’ Have Spent $350 Million in Lobbying, Contributions Since 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C – The “Big 4” tech companies – Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google – have spent nearly $350 million on lobbying and campaign contributions to influence lawmakers over the past eight years, according to a report issued today by Public Citizen.

Lobbying and campaign contributions from these publicly embattled corporations have increased significantly, from $19 million during the 2010 election cycle to $118 million in the 2018 cycle. The bulk of this spending consists of soaring lobbying expenditures, which jumped more than 500%, from $17 million during the 2010 cycle to $105 million in the 2018 cycle.

Meanwhile, campaign contributions increased nearly 400% from the 2010 to 2018 cycles, from $2.5 million to $12.1 million. Contributions from lobbyists for the Big 4 were substantial, at an average of about $21,000 for each lobbyist who gave, totaling $4.6 million during the 2018 election cycle.

“While these companies pride themselves on being masters of innovation, they have relied on the old school approach when it comes to avoiding scrutiny and gaining influence in Washington – throw as much money at the place as they can,” said Michael Tanglis, a senior researcher for Public Citizen and author of the report.

Tech companies are turning to those with deep Rolodexes to block legislation designed to protect consumers. Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen

Political action committees (PACs) for Amazon, Google and Facebook (Apple does not have a PAC) each made contributions to a filibuster-proof majority of U.S. senators in 2018; Amazon contributed to 73%, Google 66% and Facebook 60%. The PACs of Google and Amazon contributed to 53% and 54%, respectively, of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, ensuring that no bill will be passed without the support of lawmakers who received money from these companies.

Almost all Democratic and Republican Senate and House leadership members received at least $25,000 combined from Big 4 PACs during the 2018 election cycle. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) received $45,000, the most of any member of Congress, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) received $40,000.

Regarding contributions from executives, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg led all others, contributing $134,800 to members of Congress in 2018. Google CEO Sundar Pichai contributed $33,900 to both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) during the 2018 cycle.

Lobbying firms hired by the Big 4 are well connected to some of the most powerful members of Congress. Fierce Government Relations, which represents Apple, employs lobbyists who used to work for Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Subject Matter, which represents Facebook, has on its staff individuals who once worked for the DCCC, Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).

“We have seen the biggest tech companies escape accountability for years, even as they have constantly breached user privacy and flouted rules to protect consumers,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. “Tech companies are turning to those with deep Rolodexes to block legislation designed to protect consumers. We must overcome their sphere of influence and get stronger protections passed.”

Read the full report here.