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Silhouette of a man is seen in front of Amazon and Apple logos on September 5, 2018.

Silhouette of a man is seen in front of Amazon and Apple logos on September 5, 2018. (Photo: Aytac Unal/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Fending Off Antitrust Push, Tech Giants Now Biggest Spenders on DC Lobbying

"It's more important than ever for lawmakers to show their independence and bring these companies to heel."

Jake Johnson

With Facebook and Amazon leading the charge, Big Tech has surpassed Big Oil and Big Tobacco to become the largest lobbying spender in the U.S. as the increasingly powerful and consolidated industry attempts to use its wealth to fend off growing support for antitrust action among lawmakers and the American public.

"We need to rein in Big Tech's influence in Washington now, so that lawmakers and regulators can break them up, enact comprehensive privacy legislation, and hold these companies accountable for harming our economy and our democracy."
—Jane Chung, Public Citizen

According to a new report released Wednesday by consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, Facebook and Amazon spent more money on federal lobbying than any other U.S. corporations during the 2020 election cycle, with Comcast not far behind in third place.

Using campaign finance data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the report shows that Big Tech companies have donated to 94% of members of Congress who serve on House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over the industry.

"Notably, contributions are not skewed too heavily to one side of the aisle," Public Citizen notes. "Democrats, in sum, received $1.7 million in 2020, while Republicans received $1.4 million."

Overall, the group found, tech giants spent $124 million on lobbying and campaign contributions during the 2020 cycle, shattering its previous spending records. "Amazon and Facebook drove most of this growth," Public Citizen points out, with Amazon ramping up spending by 30% and Facebook by 56%. The two companies spent nearly twice as much as Exxon and Philip Morris on lobbying during the 2020 campaign, the analysis finds.

"In this moment of enhanced scrutiny, tech companies are going to spend millions and dial through their Rolodexes looking for officials to stop regulation and legislation needed to protect consumers," said Lisa Gilbert, Public Citizen's executive vice president. "That is simply unacceptable."

In addition to significantly increasing their spending, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple also added dozens of lobbyists to their teams of influence-peddlers in Washington, D.C., according to Public Citizen.

"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," the new report notes. "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."

Big Tech's growing lobbying operation in the nation's capital is reaching its zenith as industry titans Facebook and Google are attempting to quash antitrust lawsuits led by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and state attorneys general.

On top of the ongoing legal challenges to tech giants' market dominance, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers expressed support last month for legislative action—including potentially breaking up huge companies—to curtail the power of corporations like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, leaving antitrust advocates hopeful that meaningful change could be on the horizon.

"We need to rein in Big Tech's influence in Washington now, so that lawmakers and regulators can break them up, enact comprehensive privacy legislation, and hold these companies accountable for harming our economy and our democracy," Jane Chung, Big Tech accountability advocate for Public Citizen, said in a statement Wednesday.

"The Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department, and state attorneys general are signaling that justice is finally on its way," added Chung. "But with Big Tech political expenditures at historic levels, it's more important than ever for lawmakers to show their independence and bring these companies to heel."


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