Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying
Executives from the nation’s biggest tech companies have made huge donations to key lawmakers in recent months as Congress debates legislation that would reshape the industry.
The influx of donations came as the tech industry urged lawmakers to scrap antitrust legislation that could make it easier for regulators to break up tech giants. Tech companies have also lobbied Senate leaders to prioritize a bill to provide $52 billion for semiconductor manufacturing in the United States.
Tech executives handed the biggest checks to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.), according to recent Federal Election Commission filings covering fundraising from April through June.
More than two dozen Microsoft executives donated to Schumer’s campaign in June, collectively donating more than $116,000. Thirteen executives donated $5,800, the maximum allowed by law, including Microsoft Chairman Brad Smith and Fred Humphries, who heads the company’s Washington lobbying team.
“These were contributions made by executives in a personal capacity,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.
Google executives and its PAC donated nearly $92,000 to Schumer’s campaign in the second quarter of 2021. Cisco Systems executives donated nearly $100,000. Apple executives donated $28,000. Microsoft, Cisco and Apple executives had previously made no major donations to Schumer in the first three months of the year.
Schumer, who is up for re-election in 2022, is leading Democrats’ legislative efforts while raising big money to ward off potential top challengers. Schumer raised over $11.5 million from April to June, a record harvest.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has also received numerous donations from Amazon and Microsoft executives, which are headquartered in her state. Amazon employees and its PAC donated about $67,000, while Microsoft donations totaled about $48,000. Murray, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, is up for re-election in 2022.
Tech companies have been closely watching the bipartisan Senate bill to boost U.S. competitiveness with China. In May, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple and Cisco formed the Semiconductors in America Coalition to make sure the bill included billions for semiconductor manufacturing and didn’t prioritize production. semiconductors for other industries, such as car manufacturers.
“Federal investments in semiconductor technology will help ensure that more of the chips America needs are produced on American soil and accessible to the many critical sectors of the American economy that depend on them, at benefit American workers, businesses and consumers,” the group said in a statement after the bill passed.
Amazon lobbied successfully senators to pass the bill without measures that would require online retailers to collect and verify information about third-party sellers, The Washington Post reported. House lawmakers are proposing their own version of the multi-part bill.
The tech industry’s top priority is defeating antitrust legislation that would severely limit the power of major tech companies. The House Judiciary Committee advanced a list of antitrust bills last month. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, said the Senate would introduce similar legislation.
California Democratic Representatives Zoe Lofgren, Eric Swalwell and Lou Correa voted against the most aggressive antitrust measures, arguing that they would do more harm than good. Executives from Apple and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, donated to Swalwell’s campaign the day before the committee annotated the bill, according to filings.
Lofgren received a few donations from tech executives in May and June. She received $5,000 from Timothy Powderly, Apple’s director of government affairs, who urged lawmakers reject antitrust legislation.
“We are concerned that many provisions of the recent package of antitrust reform laws will create a race to the bottom for security and privacy, while undermining innovation and competition,” Powderly wrote in a letter to committee members. House judiciary last month.
Two Republicans have joined most Democrats in backing a measure that could allow regulators to break up tech giants. GOP lawmakers and some tech companies have accused democrats to frame antitrust law in a way that would exempt Microsoft from scrutiny. Microsoft, which has reported lobbying on antitrust issues, said it was not seeking exclusion from the bills.
The Hill reached out to the tech companies for comment. An Apple spokesperson noted that the company does not have a PAC.