Google poured a record amount of cash into lobbying the US Federal Government last year, outspending its tech rivals and even the major telecommunications companies, a nonprofit group has found.
According to advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, Google spent US$16.83m on lobbying in 2014, a 20 per cent year-on-year increase and the most it has ever put up in a single calendar year.
By comparison, Microsoft spent just $8.33m, less than half of what the Chocolate Factory shelled out and a 20 per cent decrease from what Redmond spent in 2013.
Lumped all together, the 15 tech companies that Consumer Watchdog monitored via Congress's lobbying disclosure website spent a combined $116.62m in 2014. In 2013, they spent $120.28m.
"It's important to understand just how much money these companies are throwing around in Washington to buy the policies they want," John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project, said in a canned statement. "Policymaking is now all about big bucks, not big ideas."
Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, any lobbyists who approach a member of the executive or legislative branches of the US government must register that contact with Congress' electronic system, including how much they were paid (in excess of $10,000), who paid them, and what specific issues they expect to raise.
Among the topics on which Google would like to bend lawmakers' ears is net neutrality – an issue about which the big telecoms firms also have their own ideas. Based on Consumer Watchdog's figures, AT&T, Comcast, Sprint, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon spent a combined $53.4m on lobbying efforts. Comcast was the most generous of the bunch, but the $16.8m it spent didn't match Google's lobbying budget – not quite, anyway.
But Google wasn't the only tech firm seeking a larger footprint in Washington last year. Amazon, Apple, and Facebook also set new corporate records for spending in 2014, with each topping the amount it spent in 2013 by a double-digit per cent increase.
Facebook was the biggest single gainer of the bunch, upping its spending by 45 per cent, year on year, to $9.34m.
Meanwhile, Cisco, IBM, and Intel all spent less on lobbying in 2014 than they did in 2013. Whether that was because they think pestering lawmakers wasn't working for them or that it worked splendidly, however, is a matter for speculation. ®