Google, Facebook, And Amazon Spent Record Cash Lobbying Washington In 2018

Google’s Sundar Pichai testifying before Congress while his lobbyists throw $30 million at lawmakers. (Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images)

Google, Facebook, and Amazon got more shit than ever from Washington last year, all while spending record amounts lobbying lawmakers. New filings reveal that altogether the three companies spent more than $67 million in a year pocked with congressional hearings, revelations regarding Russian interference, and little concrete progress by lawmakers who are putting new pressure on America’s tech giants.

Google led the pack with $30 million spent in 2018, of which $7 million was spent in the last three months of the year, according to a federal lobbying disclosure report filed on Tuesday. This beats Google’s previous record of $25 million spent in 2017.

According to the filing, some of the issues Google threw money at included online advertising regulations, privacy and data security issues, data breaches, cybersecurity, global trade and tariffs, the opioid crisis, immigration, cloud computing, and “policies on online controversial content.”

Meanwhile, Facebook spent $18 million in 2018, with $4 million coming in the fourth quarter. That’s up from the roughly $16 million it spent in 2017, and according to the filings, a good chunk of its lobbying efforts was spent on data privacy, cybersecurity, encryption, and online advertising transparency.

That’s no surprise considering the garbage fire that was Facebook’s 2018, thanks in large part to the massive fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Amazon also spent a record $20 million in 2018, beating the $18 million it lobbed at Washington in 2017. The retail giant disclosed it spent $5 million in the fourth quarter, again targeting issues like data privacy, but also postal reform, cloud computing, and Internet of Things security.

This all tracks with Amazon’s bread and butter web services and smart home products, as well as Trump’s tweets that claimed the online retailer is swindling the U.S. Postal Service.

Amazon may not have come under quite as much fire last year, but it is moving one of it two new headquarters to Crystal City, Virginia—a stone’s throw from Washington DC.

Rounding out the big five, spending from Apple and Microsoft looks low-key by comparison. Apple spent $9 million, while Microsoft spent $13 million — both a decrease from 2017.

The increased spending is a good indicator that some of the largest tech giants are unnerved by increased scrutiny from Washington. As they should be—that scrutiny isn’t likely to let up in 2019. Just in December, Senate Democrats introduced a new bill that would hold companies responsible for protecting private data like more heavily regulated institutions such as banks and hospitals.

[Washington Post, Bloomberg]

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