While a bipartisan antitrust bill targeting Big Tech makes its way through Congress, industry giants have been showering both Democrats and Republicans with tens of thousands of dollars in contributions. Their political action committees, executives, and lobbyists have targeted both critics and supporters of the legislation, which is aimed at reining in some of the most powerful tech companies in the world.
Google’s PAC made maxed-out contributions of $15,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee just one day after the bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. The PAC also made maxed-out donations to the four congressional campaign committees in June 2021, shortly after the House Judiciary Committee approved its package of antitrust bills.
The Justice Department recently threw its support behind the legislation, led by Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, which would ban giants like Amazon and Google from favoring their own products over rivals’ on their platforms. Tech companies have aggressively fought the antitrust measures, spending nearly $70 million on lobbying Washington in 2021.
Apple executives dropped $66,000 on Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer’s campaign right after a bipartisan antitrust bill, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, was officially introduced in the Senate. While Amazon opposed a separate congressional effort to protect online shoppers from counterfeit products, Amazon executives and lobbyists were donating over $78,000 to Schumer and Senator Patty Murray, the No. 3 Democrat in the chamber. The fierce lobbying forced lawmakers to strip it from a broader package, and Amazon later succeeded in watering down the measure in the House.
“The proposals they have made over the years do not strengthen the bill, they strengthen Amazon’s hand in avoiding the bill,” Senator Dick Durbin, who led the measure, said at the time. “I, for one, am not going to stand by and watch this [be] watered down any further. We need to move on this.”
Google and Amazon’s PACs have also given big to House majority leader Steny Hoyer’s campaign committees, contributing $20,000 from March 2021 to January 2022. A little less than two weeks after getting a contribution from Amazon’s PAC, Hoyer claimed the antitrust bills that had just passed in the Judiciary Committee were not ready for a full vote in the House. Congress’s approach to competition in the tech industry should be “constructive, not destructive,” Hoyer said.
Big tech has been targeting key lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, donating heavily to members who either oppose or are raising doubts about the bipartisan bill, including Senators Ben Sasse, John Cornyn, Chris Coons, and Mazie Hirono. Google, Amazon, and Facebook’s PACs donated $15,000 to Coons in the months leading up to the committee’s consideration of the antitrust bill. Senator Alex Padilla, a California Democrat who supported the bill in the Judiciary Committee but demanded “significant changes” to the legislation before it could win his vote on the Senate floor, received nearly $24,000 from Big Tech between June and December 2021. Before voting against the antitrust bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s markup, Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina raked in $5,000 from Amazon’s PAC, while Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee took in $8,000. The Republican Governance Group/Tuesday Group PAC took in over $350,000 from Amazon, Google, Facebook, and affiliated groups, $140,000 of which was donated this year
The New Democrat Coalition, a faction of business-friendly Democrats that has tried to hold up antitrust legislation in the House, wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last June asking her to slow down consideration of the antitrust bills. As Bloomberg reported, the letter mirrored industry talking points, resembling another letter sent by the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a trade group that includes Amazon, Google and Facebook, asking that the Judiciary Committee hold hearings.
“The scope and impact of these bills could have a tremendous impact on the products and services many American consumers currently enjoy and the competitiveness of our innovation economy,” the New Democrat Coalition Letter read. “Notably, stakeholders and policy experts are raising concerns these proposals may weaken personal privacy protections, cybersecurity, and increase the spread of dangerous conspiracy theories and misinformation.”
Collectively, members of the New Democrat Coalition have received more than $300,000 from Amazon, Google, and affiliated trade groups and PACs over the past year, FEC filings show.