It’s a multi-year trend that continues unabated: and Google is once again, for two years running, that US tech company that has spent the most on lobbying in Washington DC.
In fact, at $21.7 million in 2018, Google has reportedly outspent corporate giants in general, including Boeing and AT&T.
CNBC writes about this, referring to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit, as its source.
According to the report, other tech giants are also relentlessly staying the course of spending more on lobbying each year and breaking records: Facebook’s bill in 2018 was $12.6 million, while Microsoft and Apple followed with $9.6 and $6.6 million respectively.
What Google and others like Facebook and Amazon have been trying to fend off by means of lobbying is regulatory scrutiny over anything from anti-privacy business models to unfair market practices, the report suggests.
This would mean that Big Tech always expected their policies, often erring on the side of murky, to eventually come under the regulators’ microscope in the US.
At the same time, corporate lobbying is the norm, one that tech startups that turned into global giants could hardly afford to ignore. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2009 Google was also lobbying to the tune of millions: it’s just that the then incomparably smaller company spent much less – “only” $4 million.
These last days, reports suggested that the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission would investigate Google and Apple and Facebook on antitrust grounds.
So far, the fines Big Tech has been paying in the US have been what these companies must view as pocket money – tens of millions, compared to EU’s penalties running into billions.
But other ways are being explored by some politicians, including to spin off parts of the giants’ business. Containment through fragmentation – it’s almost like geopolitics transplanted onto America’s corporate world.
There are, of course, historical precedents for breaking up monopolies in the US – but it might be an uphill battle trying to prove that Google, Facebook, Apple, and others, are in fact monopolies.