- The Washington Times - Monday, January 24, 2022

America’s tech titans showered Washington with lobbying dollars in 2021, with both Facebook and Amazon spending record highs under the threat of a new tech crackdown.

Facebook, which has reorganized as Meta, spent more than $20 million on lobbying in 2021, up from $19.68 million in 2020, according to its newest disclosure submitted last week.

Meta spent more on lobbying in 2021’s final quarter, $5.42 million, than during any quarter of the previous decade, according to the U.S. Senate’s database of Lobbying Disclosure Act reports. Meta’s disclosure shows it lobbied several federal agencies and Congress on issues involving tech competition and cybersecurity, taxation, China, election integrity and much more.

Meta’s rising lobbying expenditures are coming as the social media giant is facing new scrutiny from the Biden administration and Congress. The Federal Trade Commission is suing Facebook over antitrust concerns and Congress is debating a series of proposals involving issues of speech and censorship that could change people’s experiences across Meta’s platforms. 

The Senate is also considering new antitrust legislation focused on thwarting big tech companies from preferencing their own products to the detriment of their competitors. Apple and Google have opposed the legislation, which would alter Amazon‘s business too.  

Amazon also spent more last year and last quarter than during any year or quarter of the last decade. Amazon spent more than $19.3 million on lobbying last year, including $4.92 million in the year’s final quarter, according to its lobbying disclosures. In 2020, Amazon spent $17.86 million on lobbying.

Like Facebook, Amazon lobbied on a wide range of issues involving tech, taxation, China and more.

Google spent more on lobbying in 2021 than in the preceding year but it spent nearly twice as much during the first year of the Trump administration as it did during President Biden’s first year in office.

According to its disclosures, Google said it spent $9.6 million on lobbying in 2021, compared to $7.53 million in 2020. In 2017, however, the company spent slightly more than $18 million on lobbying.

Microsoft spent more than Google on lobbying last year and has not faced the same wrath from lawmakers scrutinizing tech behemoths as Facebook, Amazon, Google or Apple. Microsoft spent $10.16 million on lobbying last year, up from nearly $9.4 million in 2020, according to its disclosures.

Last week, Microsoft announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard, a game developer, for a whopping $68.7 billion. Rep. Ken Buck, Colorado Republican who has partnered with Democrats on antitrust legislation, told the Washington Post that he was encouraged by Microsoft’s assurances to him regarding competition as a result of the planned acquisition. 

Apple spent far less than other large tech companies lobbying Washington, but it is still working hard to affect legislation that could alter its business. Apple spent $6.5 million on lobbying last year, according to its disclosure.

As the Senate debates new antitrust legislation directly affecting Apple’s business, the company’s lobbying efforts may change.

Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said he spent 40 minutes on the phone with Apple CEO Tim Cook on the day before the judiciary committee reviewed antitrust legislation involving tech companies’ self-preferencing.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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