Big Tech eclipses telecoms and arms giants as biggest lobbying spenders

by Jeremy

Facebook and Amazon are now the two most prominent individual corporate lobbyists in Washington, with their political spending eclipsing that of telecommunications and arms companies in 2020.

Analysis by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen has found that during the 2020 US presidential election cycle, Big Tech – including Apple and Google – spent a total of $124m on lobbying and campaigns.

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Despite the collective increase in lobbying and campaign spending, Public Citizen’s report revealed that most of this growth was driven by Amazon and Facebook, which have increased their spending by 30% and 56%, respectively, since 2018.

This means Facebook spent roughly $19.7m on lobbying in the 2020 election cycle, while Amazon spent $18.7m. The next biggest spender was telecommunications conglomerate Comcast, which spent $14.4m, or 30% less than Amazon.

Other top lobbying spenders include weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin, Boeing Co, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Technologies, and Unilever’s consumer goods.

“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,” said the report.

“The foundation of the Big Tech companies’ influence is their lobbying teams, which use campaign contributions, existing relationships, and 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,” it continued. Public Citizen’s 2019 research revealed that all four Big Tech firms had massively increased their lobbying spend in the eight years between the 2010 and 2018 mid-term election cycles.

From a collective total of $19.2m to $118m. While most of the $124m spent by the four Big Tech firms in the 2020 election cycle went towards lobbying activity, with just $16.5m being contributed to individual political campaigns, it marks a record total invested by Big Tech firms in both types of spending. Of the campaign contributions, $3.2m went to members of Congress with jurisdiction over Big Tech. Of the 142 members who sit on the four committees covering antitrust and privacy legislation, 134 (or 94%) received a financial contribution from Big Tech firms.

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