Last year, the three big tech companies – Google, Amazon and Facebook – set new records for the amount of money spent on lobbying in Washington, DC. Google led the way, spending a record amount, $21 million. Amazon spent $14.2 million and Facebook spent $13 million.
Every year, tech companies are spending more and more on lobbying in Washington DC, and this is due to the fact that regulators are starting to really scrutinize big tech companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook. Particularly Google and Facebook after the many privacy issues that the two ran into last year.
Those three weren't the only ones spending a ton in Washington in 2018. Microsoft and Apple also contributed to the $64.8 million spent by the biggest tech companies in the world. Microsoft spent $9.5 million and Apple spent $6.6 million lobbying last year. The "big five" as they are being referred to in Washington, had good reason to spend more, and that was due to the backlash of congress and regulators scrutinizing the companies after the 2016 Presidential Election.
Some in Washington believe that these companies have gotten too large and too fast. Many believe that some should be broken up. Though, it's not certain that it would actually fix anything. Those old enough to recall AT&T being split up in the 1980s, will remember that AT&T ended up reforming less than 30 years later and became an even bigger juggernaut. So splitting these companies up may not be the best route for the tech industry.
Google, in its filing, said that it was lobbying on tons of issues. Which the company says reflects how integral its services are to everyday lives now. Some of the areas that Google lobbied in include privacy, data security, antitrust, taxes, tariffs, trade, the opioid crisis, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and more. Of course, Google was also called in front of Congress, a couple of times though Pichai only made it there once. Congress grilled the CEO on Google's privacy efforts, after the Google+ data breach was made public.
Lobbying in Washington, DC is not illegal, though some may feel that it should be. Basically, bigger companies pay lobbyists to argue their side of things to Congress and other regulators in the nation's capital. Lobbyists also make significant donations to politicians when they are running for election or re-election. Which helps the politician run their campaign, but it also influences that politician a bit. This is the main reason why many want to see money being taken out of politics.
As Google has grown, it has spent more and more on lobbyists in Washington, as it looks to avoid probes and fines from regulators. After all, it is already paying enough fines in Europe. It just got hit with another record fine of $57 million in Europe earlier this week, in fact. The other big tech companies are doing the same thing, especially Facebook and Amazon, who have been facing more scrutiny in Washington in the past year or so. Apple and Microsoft haven't faced as much, which is why they aren't spending as much.