The Strategist

Spending on lobbying activities in the Silicon Valley doubles under Trump’s presidency

01/29/2018 - 13:40

Silicon Valley is breaking records. Under President Donald Trump, the costs of lobbying his interests for some of the companies have doubled. What is the reason for such high costs and how are Google and Apple coping with the new reality?

Daniel Benavides
Daniel Benavides
During the first year of Donald Trump's presidency, large companies spent record amounts of money lobbying their interests in the White House, as follows from the federal report for 2017.

Google was the champion. The company invested $ 18 million in the lobby against $ 15.4 million a year earlier. It is followed by Amazon and its $ 12.8 million.

Facebook and Apple tend to spend a little less on lobbying than the above-mentioned companies, but even they had to fork out. In 2017, Zuckerberg’s social network invested $ 11.5 million (32% more than last year), and Apple - $ 7.1 million, which exceeded last year's investments by 51%.

Such active cash injections are a consequence of the growing influence of representatives of the hi-tech industry, as well as uneasy relations with Washington, which have become more complicated with the coming to power of President Donald Trump in 2017.

Silicon Valley confronted the new president on many issues - network neutrality, the rights of transgender people, the ban on the entry of immigrants and many others. Bradley Tusk, who previously worked with Uber and Tesla, told CNN that the reason for the increased spending on lobbying in the White House was the so-called "unpredictability of Trump". Simply put, the technical firms could no longer feel as confident as before.

But it's not just about Trump: recently the US Congress has also taken up arms against the Valley, which organizes regular hearings and trials on the matter of Russia's interference in the presidential election in 2016. Social networks, including Facebook, Google and YouTube, are demanded to improve their algorithms and prevent propagation of propaganda and false news on their platforms.

Yet, the reason for record spending is not only the policy, but also the evolution of IT companies, whose activities are now not limited to just one area.

Previously, the companies interested only in the regulation of the Internet. Now, however, they are ready to lobby for the development of artificial intelligence and neural networks, drones and unmanned vehicles.

"The high costs of lobbying prove the fact that the companies have to give thorough explanations about their new services," said Stewart Verdery, the Monument Policy Group’s lobbyist.

According to him, the US authorities are now concerned with the safety of personal data, the employment of citizens and the influence of social networks on modern society; therefore each new project is viewed with a fair amount of skepticism.

Yet, the Silicon Valley strengthens its position not only with the help of money. Google’s interests are lobbied by assistant Senator Ted Cruz, and Facebook is helped by a former employee from the US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Amazon hired lobbyist Brian Ballard, who was in charge of finance during the Trump campaign in Florida.

Bradley Tusk believes that this is now a new reality for IT companies. They understand that in modern conditions for business, political patronage is no less important than advertising, hiring employees or anything else.