Google, Amazon.com and Facebook set company records for lobbying spending in 2018 as Washington’s scrutiny of Big Tech intensified.
Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit spent more than $21 million to influence Washington, according to federal disclosures, in a year when its chief executive, Sundar Pichai, made his first appearance before Congress. The search giant, which spent $4.9 million in the last three months of the year, according to a filing last week, beat its previous record of more than $18 million from 2017.
Amazon.com reported spending $3.7 million in the fourth quarter, bringing its total to $14.2 million for the year, more than the record $12.8 million that the company spent in 2017.
Although the online retailer has faced less ire in Washington than Facebook and Google, it has had its share of criticism, including allegations by President Donald Trump that it doesn’t pay its fair share of U.S. Postal Service costs to deliver its packages.
Facebook spent nearly $13 million on lobbying, the filings said, as it dealt with the fallout from privacy scandals, the congressional testimony of its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and data vulnerabilities.
The company spent $2.83 million during the quarter. In 2017, Facebook spent more than $11.5 million on lobbying, the previous record.
When including spending by Microsoft ($9.5 million) and Apple ($6.6 million), the industry’s Big Five shelled out $64.3 million to fight numerous legislative and policy battles in 2018.
The companies had good reason to up their influence game: They face a so-called techlash of greater congressional and regulatory scrutiny after repeated privacy breaches and disclosures that Russia used social media platforms to distribute propaganda meant to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Industry critics also said some tech companies have grown too big and too powerful, leading to suggestions by politicians and organizations, on the left and the right, that the companies be broken up.
The Internet Association, a trade group that represents companies including Google and Facebook, spent $840,000 in lobbying in the fourth quarter, a group record, according to the filings.
A spokesman for the group, Noah Theran, said in a statement that it is “committed to working with policymakers and other stakeholders and are aligning resources in pursuit of a national privacy law.”
Brody writes for Bloomberg News.