Tag: lobbying

Apple and Facebook spend a fortune lobbying Trump

Facebook and Apple set their record high for spending in a single quarter. Facebook spent $3.2 million lobbying the federal government in the first months of the Trump era.

During the same period last year, Facebook spent $2.8 million which sounds rather a lot but it is actually 15 percent less than it spent this year.

The company lobbied both chambers of Congress, the White House, and six federal agencies on issues including high-tech worker visas, network neutrality, internet privacy, encryption, and international taxation.

Facebook was the 12th-highest spender out of any company and second-highest in tech.

The Fruity cargo cult Apple spent $1.4 million, which is just $50,000 more than during the final months of the Obama presidency, when it set its previous record and the most it has ever spent in a single quarter.

Apple lobbied on issues including government requests for data, the regulation of mobile health apps, and self-driving cars.

Google, once again, outspent every other technology company. It was tenth overall, tallying $3.5 million.

While the search giant decreased its lobbying spending compared with this time last year, Amazon, Microsoft, and Uber all boosted their beltway budgets for the first three months of 2017.

Amazon spent $3 million on lobbying, behind only Facebook and Google, and was 17th out of all companies including ones outside of tech. Amazon met with government officials to discuss net neutrality, drone air cargo, drone privacy, and the flow of data across borders, among other issues. Microsoft claimed $2.3 million as the fourth-biggest spender in tech and 27th overall.

Apple’s secret war to force users to use its repair system

1839081The fruity cargo cult Apple has been engaged in a secret war to prevent users from fixing their own computer and screw them for more cash by forcing them to use its repair service.

Huffington Post has huffed that across the pond Minnesota, Nebraska, Massachusetts and New York considered adopting “right to repair” amendments, which would update existing laws regarding the sale of electronic equipment. Amending these laws would make it easier to fix your devices and would help reduce “e-waste,” a catch-all term for any electronic detritus.

However, the lawmakers have found themselves in a battle with the so-called eco-friendly Apple because it means that users could go to “unofficial repair shops” to get their Apple gear fixed.

Apple insists that it helps recycle millions of pounds of electronics equipment every year. But it won’t support right to repair amendments.

New York state Senator  Phil Boyle, sponsor of a “right to repair” amendment said that people were being forced to buy new computers, new software and new technology on a regular basis because it’s so expensive to have them repaired at the manufacturer.

Another reason why Apple is opposing the measure is that because it would force it to release its schematics so that repair shops and recyclers can fix the gear. Apple loves its secrets and has all sorts of rules to prevent people tearing down its shiny toys.

However it is more likely that Apple does not want to end its repair monopoly. Without any competition, Jobs Mob can charge what it likes and decide if one of its shiny toys is scrapped.

Huff Post did some digging and found that for all its spin, it is not clear how Apple makes recycling programmes adhere to environmental standards. So not only is it unclear if Jobs’ Mob’s repair method is fair, it might also not be as environmentally friendly as having a bloke around the corner repairing the device for you.

Google is the White House puppet-master

puppetIf control of the US government depends on the amount of access lobby groups have to the White House, then Google is the puppet-master.

A project examining White House visitor logs shows the Obama administration has extended an open door to Google.

Johanna Shelton, Google’s director of public policy has visited White House officials 128 times since President Barack Obama took office in 2009. In comparison senior lobbyists for other companies in the telecommunications and cable industry, Comcast, Facebook, Amazon, Oracle and Verizon, have visited the White House a combined 124 times during the same timespan.

Google’s parent Alphabet spent $16.6 million lobbying in 2015. That was the twelfth most of any company, and the most by any technology firm. AT&T spend $16.4 million and Comcast’s $15.7 million.

Anne Weismann, executive director of the Campaign for Accountability said the logs don’t reveal the discussion of the meetings, just who attended them.

“You don’t know what the meetings are about, but the fact that someone has that level of access at the White House is revealing. It certainly suggests a level of influence,” she said.


Disney asks employees to pay for its lobbying

Disney stamp - Wikimedia CommonsMickey Mouse outfit Walt Disney has asked its employees to pay for its court cases to stop piracy and lobbying of politicians.

Disney has been getting stranger lately and has been asking its full-time employees to train cheap Chinese workers before firing them.  However this latest effort makes it a clear front runner for the Wal Mart award for American business.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has sent a letter to the company’s employees, asking for them to open their hearts—and their wallets—to the company’s political action committee, DisneyPAC.

In the letter, which was leaked by a Disney employee, Iger tells workers about his company’s recent intellectual property victories, including stronger IP protections in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a Supreme Court victory that destroyed Aereo, and continued vigilance about the “state of copyright law in the digital environment.” It also mentions that Disney is seeking an opening to lower the corporate tax rate.

“With the support of the US Government we achieved a win in the Supreme Court against Aereo—an Internet service claiming the right to retransmit our broadcast signals without paying copyright or retransmission consent fees. In the coming year, we expect Congress and the Administration to be active on copyright regime issues, efforts to enact legislation to approve and implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, tax reform, and more proposals to weaken retransmission consent, to name a few.”

Employees behind the leak asked to remain anonymous, and they were bothered by the assumption that anyone who worked for Disney would agree with the company’s political positions on tax, trade, intellectual property, and other matters.

The letter concludes with a suggested donation to DisneyPAC. Ars is not publishing the suggested amount in case it is personalized to the source’s compensation or position at Disney.

“For your convenience, DisneyPAC has implemented a payroll deduction system, through which your contributions to the PAC will be deducted from your weekly paycheck,” Iger explains.

The source received the letter via business mail and doesn’t know how many other employees received it.

“I don’t know how widely this was distributed,” the source said. “Was it to rank and file folks in [theme] parks, to people working in a popcorn stand?”

The Disney letter has language explicitly reassuring employees that their jobs won’t be affected by their decision whether or not to give to DisneyPAC.

“Your contribution is important to all of us, but I want to emphasize that all contributions are voluntary and have no impact on your job status, performance review, compensation, or employment,” writes Iger. “Any amount given or the decision not to give will not advantage or disadvantage you.”

Iger himself was paid $45 million last year.  It is not clear if he is stumping up any cash, given that if Disney wins he will get even more money as share prices go up.  It seems strange that a company that does not want to invest in its employees expects employees to invest in the management strategy. It sounds like the management is in Fantasyland.


Europeans are falling for Google’s lobbying charms

European Court of Human RightsThe anti-corruption group Transparency International is worried that Google might be lobbying the European Commission a little too much.

In a report analysing meetings held by European Commissioners and their staff with companies and organisations over the last six months, Transparency International found that officials held 29 meetings with the US search engine, which is the subject of two high-profile antitrust cases.

Google said the high lobbying figure was because it wanted to do a better job of listening to Europe’s concerns and explaining how our business works in Europe.

The only difference between the US and EU is that the new EU executive, which took office in November, has pushed for more transparency in its dealings with companies and organisations and has begun publishing details of meetings held by senior officials.

The EU also tracks how much companies and organizations spend on lobbying activities, which is published in its Transparency Register.

Google spent between $3.92-4.26 million in lobbying activities last year, according to the register.

Transparency International’s report found that more than 75 percent of meetings were held with corporate lobbyists, compared with 18 percent with non-governmental organizations and four percent with think tanks.  Daniel Freund, a policy officer at Transparency International, referring to the EU’s Transparency Register said that the evidence of the last six months suggests there is a strong link between the amount of money you spend and the number of meetings you get.

Officials working in the fields of climate, energy, finance and digital policy got the most attention from lobbyists, Transparency International’s report said.

Google investors worry about hidden lobbying

Bribe-sign1-300x300The investors at Google are worried about how much money the company is spending making sure that US politicians do what they are told – or as the rest of the world considers it, bribery.

For example Google donated $26,000 to Democrat Jerry Brown in his last campaign for governor of California, and the company wrote a cheque for $10,000 to Republican Marco Rubio’s 2016 U.S. Senate campaign.

That is the smaller detail. Since President Obama took office, Google has spent over $60 million on lobbying in Washington.

Google shareholders seem to think that it is time for Google to truly live by its openness value. They are demanding that the company fully disclose all of its lobbying.

In a quaint view of US business politics it appears that the shareholders are not so worried about the amount that Google is spending “lobbying” but just wants to know who the cheques are going to. They are also worried that Google is effectively supporting groups like the US Chamber of Trade which has Dickensian views about the environment and climate change.

Google cut all ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council because it was “lying” on climate change.

Tim Smith of Walden Asset Management filed a formal shareholder resolution to require Google to be fully transparent about its lobbying expenses and objectives.

Google opposes the latest proposal from Walden Asset Management, arguing that it would be “impractical and burdensome” to disclose more about its lobbying than it does now. While it might not be worried about the cash it gives the likes of the US Chamber of Trade, it is probably concerned about people finding out the extent of cash it is giving politicians.

Zuckerberg to announce political advocacy group

28 year old Facebook boss mark Zuckerberg is rumoured to be heading into the murky world of political lobbying – co-organised with Harvard roommate Joe Green. It is expected the group will primarily be advocating immigration reform.

The group will, according to the Wall Street Journal’s sources, seek $50 million in capital before it lobbies for federal reform on topics including immigration and education. It has reportedly secured millions from LinkedIn top exec Reid Hoffman.

Its first task is tipped to be focusing on making US citizenship easier for immigrants, and it is also expected to be pushing education reform and pursuing science funding.

Bill Gates, the well regarded billionaire and philanthropist, has been busying himself with education reform too – in the guise of privatised services, through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which in part lead to the Chicago Teacher’s Strike, the biggest strike of its kind in years.

Other figures rumoured to be involved in the group include some who have previously been close to Washington. Rob Jesmer was the former exec director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Joe Lockhart, Facebook’s ex communications veep, was a press officer for Bill Clinton, and Jon Lerner, a Republican strategist, are reportedly involved in the unnamed group the WSJ reports.

Zuckerberg has previously donated to Republican causes and has met with Barack Obama.

It is not uncommon for capital-rich business figures to involve themselves in advocacy, politics, or philanthropy with a political bent, as they use their money to allow them louder voices than the general electorate. 

Samsung fails to outspend Apple in lobbying

Samsung is outselling Apple in the smartphone market, but at the same time Cupertino is outspending Samsung inside the Beltway.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Samsung spent $800,000 on lobbying Washington last year, with $480,000 going to lobbying outfit Akin Gump in the fourth quarter. However, it is still nowhere near Apple, which spent $1.97 million last year. In 2011, Washington lobbyists got $2.2 million from Cupertino, Politico reports. 

Samsung’s decision to ramp up lobbying comes as no surprise, as the company is embroiled in a number of lengthy legal disputes with Apple. Last year Samsung was slapped with a $1 billion fine in a patent case against Apple. While it might sound like a huge fine, paying just $1 billion to get on top of the smartphone market is arguably a good deal.

Samsung’s deal with Akin Gump seems to revolve around IP infringement. The Korean giant is expanding its political presence on other fronts as well. At CES, the company enlisted former US President Bill Clinton to join Samsung’s president during the keynote.

Clinton is still popular and his lengthy speech at the Democratic National Convention in September overshadowed the address delivered by US President Barack Obama. However, with US politics more divisive than ever, Samsung’s publicity stunt could backfire and prompt some patriotic Republicans to buy Apple gear. Because nothing is as American as buying a phone built in China, powered by Redcoat ARM chips, with a screen built in Japan and some NAND fresh out of Korea. To be fair, it would be rather tricky to build an all-American phone, since America doesn’t really make anything anymore. Except war.

At the same time, Samsung is also expanding its research and development facilities in Silicon Valley. It hired a new head of innovation, who told MIT’s Technology Review that he uses Apple gear at home. 

HP boss doubles as dinner chair at Romney fundraiser

Unsuccessful almost governor and ex eBay boss Meg Whitman yesterday took time off from selling TouchPads on eBay to have a fancy dinner with Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

Romney and Whitman are old buddies. They worked together for a time and Romney also pushed Whitman to take her job at the helm of HP, an “American icon” he said, according to BusinessWeek.

This event was open to all as long as they had $1,000 to give to the Republicans – and it was only $25,000 for the best seats in the house.

The best seats in the house included Whitman – she attended with husband Griff Harsh, and they both doubled up as ‘dinner chairs’ – which suggests to us the Republicans are more cash strapped than they’d like to admit. We guess they could only afford the tables. The list of last night’s other dinner chairs is available on the invite, here.

Larry Ellison was not available for comment. 

AMD spends little wining and dining government

In the horridors of power that is the White House, technology companies park nearby if possible and spend their money on influence with policymakers. AMD managed just $110,000 in the second quarter, down from $280,000 the same time last year.

Even though AMD bites at the ankles of Chipzilla, its lobbying total paled in comparison to Intel, which spent almost a million bucks on working with Washington, DC. Intel’s long list of policy officers are listed here, including the aptly-named Audrey Plonk, apt because, though we can’t confirm, we bet the company splashed out on a fair amount of bubbly.

AMD spent a little more in the first quarter of the year, says the Associated Press, where it tries to convince government to give some leeway on its ideas about security, government funding, taxes and immigration. 

AP doesn’t exactly put down AMD’s relatively tight-pursed lobbyists to the absence of a CEO, but it does mention it. The stand up comedian Dirk Meyer left AMD shortly after CES was through, while the board dragged its heels eight months too late to find a replacement for the Dark Mayor.

Its replacement was Rory Read, whose last position has not been replaced at Lenovo. We have heard whispers that no one wanted the tough job of pleasing the board.