Political lobbying aimed at influencing what’s written into new and revised federal legislation and regulations is a core activity for the world’s multinational information and communications technology (ICT) companies. Google, for instance, spent a record $5.47 million in lobbying the U.S. Congress in 2015’s first quarter, according to Consumer Watchdog.
Google’s 1Q’15 political lobbying spend is up 43 percent from $3.82 million in 1Q’14, Consumer Watchdog highlights in a report based on data drawn from recent filings with the Clerk of the House of Representatives.
Comcast also was a big spender in first quarter. With its merger with Time Warner under review by the FCC and Justice Dept., the cable company spent $4.62 million in 1Q, 50 percent more than the $3.09 million it devoted to furthering its cause among D.C. lawmakers the year-ago quarter. Time Warner Cable spent $1.70 million in the first quarter of 2015, a decrease of 12 percent from $1.93 million a year earlier.
Google and Comcast ranked as the top two spenders on lobbying in 1Q’15 among 16 high-tech and communications companies Consumer Watchdog monitors. The public interest non-profit also highlights a big – 130 percent – 1Q increase in political lobbying spending by Amazon. Amazon spent $1.91 million on political lobbying in 1Q, up from $830,000 in 1Q’14, federal records show.
Increased spending by Google, Comcast and Amazon runs counter to a slight decline in political lobbying spending by most high-tech and communications companies year-over-year in 1Q, according to Consumer Watchdog.
High-Tech Lobbying Expenditures
While it’s been increasing its presence on Capitol Hill in recent years, Facebook’s spending on political lobbying dropped 12 percent year-over-year in 1Q, from $2.78 million in 1Q’14 to $2.44 million in 1Q’15. Microsoft – which has typically outspent rival Google when it comes to spending on lobbying in D.C. – spent $1.89 million in 1Q’15, down 9 percent from $2.08 million in 1Q’14.
“Even though many companies slightly trimmed their first-quarter spending, it’s important to understand just how much money these companies are throwing around in Washington to buy the policies they want,” Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director John M. Simpson was quoted as saying. “Policymaking is now all about big bucks, not big ideas.”
Consumer Watchdog also provided the following data on 1Q’15 spending on federal political lobbying by six other high-tech companies:
- Apple spent $1.24 million, a 16 percent increase from $1.07 million;
- Cisco spent $600,000 a 2 percent increase from $590,000;
- IBM spent $1 million a decrease of 21 percent from $1.26 million;
- Intel spent $1.17 million, a decrease of 5 percent from $1.23 million;
- Oracle spent $1.29 million, a decrease of 15 percent from $1.51 million;
- Yahoo spent $730,000 a 4 percent increase from $700,000.
Among telecommunications companies, Consumer Watchdog found that one of four increased spending on lobbying in 1Q’15, while three spent less:
- AT&T spent $4.37 million, an increase of 14 percent from $3.85 million;
- Sprint spent $734,927 a decrease of 6 percent from $784,707;
- T-Mobile spent, $1.18 million a decrease of 20 percent from $1.47 million;
- Verizon spent $3.35 million, a decrease of 6 percent from $3.55 million.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there may be a strong positive correlation between the amount of money corporations spend on political lobbying and increased scrutiny or legal action by federal regulators, as well as during times new legislation or regulations are being drafted.
Google’s second-highest first-quarter spending on political lobbying in D.C., for example, occurred in 2012 when the Internet giant was facing an antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Watchdog points out.