U.S. technology giants boosted their lobbying spending last year as they battled charges of unfair competition, sought to shape privacy legislation and pursued large government contracts.
Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. shelled out $45.5 million in 2019, 12% less than the $51.6 million the year before.
The overall drop was driven by Alphabet Inc.’s Google. It reported a 44% decline in 2019 spending, to $11.8 million from $21.2 million. The company spent much of last year reshuffling its Washington office, including ending its relationships with more than a dozen lobbyists at six outside firms.
The disclosures are filed quarterly with Congress.
U.S. tech companies have been mainly worried about antitrust probes.The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are reviewing the biggest internet platforms to determine if they are harming competition. The FTC is scrutinizing Facebook and Amazon, while the Justice Department is investigating Google and is also looking at Facebook.
Large coalitions of state attorneys general are likewise considering cases against Facebook and Google.
Amazon increased its spending to a record $16.1 million from $14.2 million. Despite the increase, the retail giant lost a $10 billion Pentagon cloud contract to rival Microsoft.
Apple’s $7.4 million lobbying outlay last year was also a record. That amount was up 10% from $6.7 million in 2018.
Microsoft, which spent $10.2 million on lobbying last year, up from $9.5 million the year before, has largely avoided the political pitfalls of its peers. Winning the Pentagon’s cloud contract was a major victory. In August, Pentagon vendors were awarded a contract worth as much as $7.6 billion to provide Microsoft software to the Defense Department.
Chinese Huawei Technologies Co. started spending heavily on lobbying in the second half of last year as it found itself in the crosshairs of the Trump administration.
Huawei spent $1.1 million in the fourth quarter and nearly $3 million for the full year, up from $165,000 in 2018.
In the final months of 2019, companies and trade groups intensified their lobbying on international trade issues as the Trump administration sought to end the tariff war with China and pass a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
Earlier this year, the U.S. and China signed what they billed as the first phase of a broader trade pact that commits China to do more to crack down on the theft of American technology and avoid currency manipulation.
The National Association of Manufacturers’ spending on federal lobbying rose to $8.4 million in the last three months of 2019, a nearly 313% jump compared with the third quarter, and $14.6 million in all of 2019. The trade group lobbied on both China and North American trade issues, according to its filings.