Including on coronavirus legislation, Big Tech spends over $20 million on lobbying in first half of 2020

The Big Tech companies of Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google combined to spend over $20 million on lobbying in the first half of 2020. A part of their focus on legislation that was meant to battle the economic collapse of the coronavirus pandemic.

Amazon and Facebook have been the leaders in lobbying funds throughout the past six months. According to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, the social media giant spent just over $10 million, a record amount for its politicisation efforts in the first half of the year. Investing a bit above $10 million in lobbying over that same time period, Amazon also broke records.

Out of the many congressional efforts the tech enterprises tried to influence, problems relating to coronavirus legislation were part of their lobbying schedule, according to disclosure reports reviewed by CNBC. The CARES Act, which was meant to give relief to small businesses through a federal loan program known as the Paycheck Protection Program, was included by this effort. The Small Business Administration has implemented that program and has led to loans in billions of dollars.

The lobbying also comes because these companies have been under examination by Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general about the potential desecration of antitrust laws. Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, who are the CEOs of these companies have all faced questions from Congress at a hearing on Wednesday.

A trove of documents on antitrust were released by The House Judiciary subcommittee after the hearing that provide a clearer picture of the four tech giants’ approach to competition.

Even though that happened, most of the four companies did not answer questions on what exactly their companies were looking for through their lobbying campaigns when it came to the coronavirus relief efforts.

A spokesman for Facebook said it was concentrated on supporting small businesses but did not reply to follow-up requests for comment. Facebook has openly stood by small businesses through this pandemic. Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer previously said on her own Facebook page that the company was moving ahead with a $100 million grant program to aid small businesses.

Apple decided not to comment while Amazon and Google did not revert to emails seeking comment.

There are, however, some disclosures that give hints as to the likely objectives of the tech giants when they started lobbying on coronavirus-related issues.

For example, Amazon, tapped Subject Matter, a lobbying shop co-founded by long-time Democratic political strategist Steve Elmendorf, to lobby Congress and the Executive Office of the President on as per one of the disclosure forms, “issues related to federal and private sector testing protocols for Covid-19.” The second quarter was when the focus came in, which durations from April through June. In March, the United States began to see recorded coronavirus cases at the end of the first quarter. Tech giants went on a lobbying spending spree over the first three months of the year.

Amazon workers were in the middle of a protest to call attention to what they called a lack of protections in April, for employees who continued to come to work during the coronavirus outbreak. Amazon paid Subject Matter $60,000 for their work in the second quarter.

Over the same time period, there’s Apple, which turned to Invariant, a lobbying group founded by Heather Podesta, the wife of lobbyist Tony Podesta. The filing demonstrates that Invariant lobbyists were looking to make inroads on a coronavirus-related bill known as The Heroes Act, which recently passed the House. The filing suggests that Apple was also trying to make an impression in the space of virtual learning, as most schools across the country were mandated to shut down.

To “educate policymakers about the supply chain for technology to support distance learning activities in education systems,” is what Invariant lobbyists planned, the disclosure report says.

In the second quarter, Elmendorf’s firm also saw a $60,000 payout from Facebook. It fixated in part on the CARES Act but also on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which became law earlier this year.

Although Google spent the least amount on lobbying, it turned to at least three outside firms to concentrate on coronavirus relief.

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