As the US Congress considered legislation which could “reshape” the Big Tech industry in recent months, the biggest tech companies in America gave very large donations to key Democrat Party lawmakers.
The tech industry was opposed to antitrust legislation, which would, if passed into law, make it “easier for regulators to break up tech giants.” Besides the huge donations, tech companies “lobbied Senate leaders to prioritize a bill to provide $52 billion toward U.S. semiconductor manufacturing.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), according to April-June Federal Election Commission filings, received the largest donations from the tech companies’ executives. Over two dozen executives from Microsoft gave over $116,000 combined to the Schumer campaign in June. Among these executives, 13 gave the maximum legally allowed donation, $5,800. Two of the max-out donors were Microsoft President Brad Smith and also Fred Humphries, who leads Microsoft’s Washington lobbying team.
A Microsoft spokesperson has insisted, “These were contributions made by executives in their personal capacity.”
Schumer will be running for reelection in 2022 and is currently leading the legislative efforts of Democrats while “simultaneously raising big money to ward off potential primary challengers.” Between April and June, Schumer raised a record of over $11.5 million. According to The Hill:
“Google executives and its PAC donated nearly $92,000 to Schumer’s campaign in the second quarter of 2021. Cisco Systems executives gave nearly $100,000. Apple executives gave $28,000. Executives at Microsoft, Cisco and Apple previously had not made large donations to Schumer through the first three months of the year.”
Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who also received many donations from tech executives, is running for reelection in 2022 as well and is the number three Democrat in the Senate. Murray was given about $67,000 in total from the Amazon PAC and Amazon employees and about $48,000 from Microsoft.
Amazon lobbied the Senate, successfully, to pass a bipartisan bill “to bolster U.S. competitiveness with China” without requiring the collection and verification of third-party sellers’ information by online retailers. The Semiconductors in America Coalition was formed in May by Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Cisco to make sure that billions for semiconductor manufacturing were included in this same bill and that other industries, for instance carmakers, did not receive priority for the production of semiconductors.
“Federal investments in semiconductor technology will help ensure more of the chips America needs are produced on U.S. soil and accessible to the many critical sectors of the U.S. economy that depend on them, benefiting American workers, businesses, and consumers,” the tech coalition commented after the bill was passed.
Defeating antitrust legislation is still the top priority of the tech giants. Last month, a number of antitrust bills were advanced by the House Judiciary Committee and the chair of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), has stated that similar legislation will be introduced into the Senate.
The most aggressive of the proposed antitrust measures were voted against by Representatives Eric Swalwell, Zoe Lofgren, and Lou Correa, all Democrats from California. According to filings, Swalwell’s campaign had received donations from Apple and Facebook-owned Instagram executives only the day before the bill was marked up by committee. Lofgren received donations in May and June from tech executives, including Timothy Powderly, Apple’s director of government affairs, who gave Lofgren $5,000.
Powderly wrote a letter to members of the House Judiciary Committee in June to express opposition to antitrust legislation. “We are concerned that many provisions of the recent package of antitrust reform legislation would create a race to the bottom for security and privacy, while also undermining innovation and competition,” he wrote.
“Two Republicans joined most Democrats in supporting a measure that could allow regulators to break up tech giants. GOP lawmakers and some tech firms have accused Democrats of wording antitrust legislation in a way that would exempt Microsoft from scrutiny. Microsoft, which reported lobbying on antitrust issues, has said it did not seek to be excluded from the bills.”