Is Change Coming to High Tech Lobbying in Washington, DC?

March 14, 2018

The received wisdom in Washington, DC is that when it comes to politics, money talks.

The idea is simple: Donate money to a politician’s campaign or a politician’s favorite “cause” and get your email and phone calls answered.

The Independent explains that, “Google Outspends All Rival Washington Lobbyists For First Time In 2017.”

In 2017, Google spent $18 million to lobby Congress on a slew of issues ranging from immigration, tax reform, antitrust, and online advertising. Tech companies have big bucks and the power to take on Congress on governmental policies. Lawmakers, on the other hand, fire back with pot shots like allowing Russian operatives to share content and how their software and other technology allows tech companies to abuse their power.

Google’s Washington operation proposed legislation that would require Web companies to collaborate on a public database of political as that run on their platforms. The idea is that the database would prevent foreign nations from exploiting online platforms. Other companies like Amazon and Facebook have ramped up their lobbying spending too.

Despite the power tech companies wield, their roles in society are changing and there is some fear associated with it:

“‘These are companies that are touching so many parts of the economy, they are touching so many parts of our geography. So it’s inevitable that they are going to engage in a host of political and policy issues,’ said Julie Samuels, the executive director of Tech: NYC, a group that represents New York-based tech firms. Samuels added that Silicon Valley has also had to adjust to a new political order, under a Republican administration. ‘Many tech companies had only been real players during the Obama administration. They had a lot to learn.’”

Now the received wisdom may have to modified. Beyond Search noted that Palantir has landed a chunk of a US government contract to create a DCGS which meets the needs of the US Army.

We think that Google will continue to support lobbying, but it will seek more deals like its tie up with the US government’s push for artificial intelligence. What may emerge is a new approach to influencing procurement decisions and legislation in Washington.

Whitney Grace, March 14, 2018


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