Excerpts from “Crushed: Big Tech’s War on Free Speech,” by Rep. Ken Buck, Colorado Republican. The 212-page book is being published Tuesday by Humanix Books.
Competition in the marketplace of ideas is based on quality, on evaluation, on free and unfettered exchange with whatever communication methods are available. Recently, however, as Big Tech companies consolidate power and influence our leaders, America is now a place where too often opinions are stifled or labeled “dangerous.” Public and private figures are silenced and even banned from digital platforms.
This behavior stops the flow of ideas. It shrinks and even shutters both the marketplace of ideas and the marketplace of commerce. In doing so, it destroys competition, which, in turn, destroys our social and economic growth.
Big Tech companies are not sitting idly on the sidelines as passive observers. They are heavily invested in maintaining the status quo of monopoly control over their commercial interests and ideological goals.
Big Tech employs the traditional D.C. influence-peddling schemes. In 2021, Meta, which owns Facebook, spent $20,070,000 on lobbying, Amazon plunked down $19,320,000 — which makes them among the top 10 influence buyers on Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, Alphabet, which owns Google and YouTube, and Apple spent big, too, paying out $11,770,000 and $6,500,000, respectively. Lobbyists can contribute $5,000 to each member of Congress during an election cycle, plus another $10,000 to election committees.
Most lobbying efforts in D.C. target political donations to critical members of Congress and buy off various Washington, D.C., think tanks, academic centers and advocacy groups. What makes Big Tech even more influential are their hidden efforts to influence House and Senate leaders. Take, for example, Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren.
I like Representative Lofgren. She is a very nice colleague. The congresswoman, however, is like a lot of her fellow California legislators: She is extremely protective of Big Tech.
That’s because, as she proudly proclaims on her web page, she “represents the 19th District of California, based in the ‘Capital of Silicon Valley,’ San Jose, and the Santa Clara Valley.” That means she represents ground-zero for Big Tech; her district straddles the voting districts of Apple, Facebook and Google.
In a 2021 Judiciary Committee hearing called to markup antitrust bills regarding Big Tech, she voted for almost every poison pill amendment, offered last-minute amendments of her own, and argued in favor of any effort to derail the bills. Since the markup hearing, she’s met with various Democratic caucuses, praising Big Tech’s unbridled power, and using Big Tech’s talking points about how these companies are really benevolent monopolies.
Also, more disturbingly, her daughter serves as an in-house corporate counsel at Google.
Zoe Lofgren isn’t the only Democrat compromised by Big Tech. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House as I write this, is married to tech investor Paul Pelosi, a man who has invested millions of dollars in Apple, Alphabet and other tech stocks.
On June 18, 2021, just five days before the Antitrust Subcommittee markup, Paul Pelosi bought 4,000 shares of Alphabet via a call option — in which he promised stocks at a later date at a price of $1,200 a share. A month later, the shares closed just over $2,500, making Pelosi $5.2 million richer — without spending a penny.
As you might expect, Speaker Pelosi’s office issued a statement: “The speaker has no involvement or prior knowledge of these transactions.” That may be true, and I may be LeBron James’s twin brother.
Curiously, on June 29, 2021, soon after Paul Pelosi’s stock purchase, Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland — the speaker’s deputy — said the Judiciary Committee’s newly passed bipartisan bills were not ready for a House vote. “Right now, they’re not ready for the floor, and I don’t want to make a prediction as to when they’re going to be ready.”
This is how conspiracy theories start.
Unfortunately, Nancy Pelosi can deflect criticism easily. Her strongest defense is this: “Hey, I’m not so bad. Look at the guy running the Senate!”
And she would be right, too. The daughter of Democrat Senate Leader Chuck Schumer is — are you sitting down? — a registered lobbyist for Amazon. That’s right. When the most powerful man in the Senate sits down for Thanksgiving dinner — or any family dinner — Jeff Bezos’s lobbyist has a seat at the table.
Oh, and Schumer’s other daughter works for Facebook.
I wish I were making these things up. But I’m not.
Like Pelosi, Chuck Schumer is sitting on more than half-a-dozen antitrust bills. Bipartisan antitrust bills.
When I hear about these connections, I start to think that Big Tech companies aren’t the only ones who self-preference. Our politicians don’t seem immune, either. This reflects poorly on all who serve.
Sometimes I think that if I were a swamp, I’d be insulted by all these comparisons to Washington.
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