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More tech companies join anti-Trump battle, but why did some pay for his inauguration?

Hypocrisy is the new normal

More tech companies have added their names to the legal brief against President Trump's immigration ban, but some big names – including Amazon, Google and Microsoft – are facing accusations of rampant hypocrisy for funding his inauguration.

On a special webpage created by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to keep track of the controversial case, a slew of tech companies have asked to be included in the Big Tech argument that the ban is both illegal and would damage their businesses.

That includes Akamai, Fitbit, GoDaddy, OneLogin, Quantcast, Soundcloud and a collection of 14 companies calling themselves "technology start-ups." The same mass sign-up has happened with law professionals – with many associating themselves with the amicus brief from 250+ law professors. Eighteen US States have joined the battle as well.

Following a hearing Tuesday afternoon by a three-judge panel, many expect the Ninth Circuit to make a decision Wednesday or Thursday – at which point the travel ban may be imposed again.

It is impossible to know which side the court will come down on, although based on questions asked during the hearing it does look as though two judges may side against the president and decide his executive order was not legal, while one will almost certainly decide otherwise.

Oh dear

While that legal process has everyone holding their breath, focus has turned to what looks like hypocrisy on the parts of some of the biggest tech companies.

Having opposed much of Trump's rhetoric during the campaign and then legally opposed his efforts to impose the Muslim ban he promised to introduce, the news that Microsoft contributed $250,000 in cash to President Trump's inauguration committee and a further $250,000 in in-kind services has opened the company up to criticism.

What is more surprising, however, is a report that Google and Amazon did the same. According to Politico, a number of tech companies also gave very healthy donations to the inauguration – something that is not sitting very well with employees or users.

Although large corporations typically always contribute to presidential inaugurations as a way of currying favor – as well as to congress members on both sides of the aisle – Trump has proven to be a very different prospect, given his aggressive pursuit of policies that go against tech companies' cultural and financial interests.

Microsoft's $500,000 contribution to the Presidential Inaugural Committee was made on December 28, 2016 – which means it was included in the lobbying contributions that the company is legally obliged to file in its LD-203 Lobbying Contribution Report, due January 30. You can read it online.

It's coming

Any contributions made in 2017, in the three weeks between the end of the year and the actual inauguration, will not be formally disclosed until April (by the Inaugural Committee) or July (in the next six-month lobbying report).

That has led many to speculate that big companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and so on contributed millions of dollars to Trump following the much-criticized tech leader sit-down with Trump and his advisors in mid-December. If true, it would open up tech execs to yet more criticism.

Tech CEOs were notably quiet during the first two tumultuous weeks of Trump's presidency, when millions of people, including many of their companies' employees, took to the streets to protest.

It was only when Trump made good on his promise to try to ban Muslims from entering the country, and then threatened to disrupt the H1-B visa system that tech companies rely on for talent, that they started speaking out – and only when faced with concerted activism from their own staff.

While tech leaders have no doubt told themselves that their actions (or lack thereof) were an example of real politik, the level of anger at the White House's actions is making such palm-rubbing look increasingly two-faced.

We have asked Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google individually if they will confirm or deny contributions to Trump's inauguration committee before they are made public in April.

A Facebook spokesperson told us: "Facebook did not make a cash contribution. We did offer in-kind support, setting up a mini-Oval Office and photo booths." We will update this story as and when others respond. ®

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