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The tech giants’ enemies open their wallets to the top cartel republican in the house

The numbers are a reminder that Washington’s battle for power of the ruling titans of Silicon Valley is hardly a one-sided affair in terms of political spending. Instead, the debate in Congress over the revision of US antitrust laws has sparked some complex corporate maneuvers behind the scenes, especially as “big tech” money is becoming increasingly politically toxic. And that paved the way for politicians like Buck, a conservative operator and member of the House Freedom Caucus.

Google, Facebook and Amazon are still among the top donors for lobbying at the federal level and donors for political campaigns in the country. They spend tens of millions of dollars annually helping fund lobbying shops, law firms, nonprofits, and think tanks to stand up for their side. But corporate competitors, including technology competitors such as Microsoft, Epic Games and the media conglomerates that vie with the online giants for advertising dollars, are well equipped.

“One reason tech antitrust law has got so much attention on the hill is because the victims are not just small and medium-sized businesses, workers and consumers, but other large corporations as well,” said Sandeep Vaheesan, a legal director with Anti -Monopoly Thinking Tank Open Markets Institute. “Some of the victims of these monopolists have real lobbying power, the money to donate to political campaigns and [the ability to] Support counter-narratives to challenge the hegemony of the big players in technology. “

When asked to comment on the big tech companies ‘rivals’ donations, Buck instead issued a statement criticizing the article.

“It’s not shocking that Politico (sponsored by Amazon, Google and Facebook) is making a hit on Ken Buck,” said Alexa Vance, Buck’s communications director, who said she spoke in her capacity as his campaign spokesperson. “It is true that Rep. Buck’s campaign received several thousand dollars from conservative ‘anti-big-tech’ corporations. We hope you will send more. “

Vance added that since 2008 Politico has received an “undisclosed amount of money in millions of dollars” from Amazon, Google and Facebook for sponsoring many of Politico’s newsletters. That sounds a lot like a conflict of interest. “

POLITICO spokesman Brad Dayspring replied that a “strong firewall” separates POLITICO’s business and news activities. “To put it simply: The POLITICO sales team has no control over the editorial content and does not pass on customer information to reporters and editors,” said Dayspring.

According to a POLITICO analysis of the Congressman’s filings with the Federal Election Commission, Buck has received over $ 50,000 from corporate competitors of the big tech companies and their lobbyists since the House Antitrust Subcommittee began bipartisan investigation of the big tech companies in June 2019 .

The money, which totaled around 12 percent of his transportation during this period, includes donations from major technology companies such as Microsoft and Oracle. smaller tech rival Yelp; AT&T, which has an advertising unit; Murdoch’s own media company News Corp. and Fox Corp .; and the News Media Alliance, a trade association representing major news publishers.

Buck was selected as best Republican on the Antitrust Subcommittee earlier this year and was previously heavily involved in the investigation before it closed in October.

Donations to Buck from the tech giants’ rivals exceed what either the House Antitrust Subcommittee chairman David Cicilline (DR.I.) or Utah Senator Mike Lee, the top Republican on the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, received from the same companies and their lobbyists during the same time. (Cicilline does not accept corporate PAC donations, and Lee has until recently touted a skeptical stance on changes to antitrust law.)

During the House panel investigation in 2020, Buck made headlines for his escalating criticism of the big tech companies, which he derided as abusive giants. “I think it is clear that there is abuse in the market and that there is a need for action,” Buck said during a local hearing in his home state in January 2020.

In the end, Buck declined to sign the final 450-page antitrust report, released by the Democrats in October, calling for sweeping changes to U.S. antitrust law to regain power from the tech giants. But he published his own Third-Way Report, which agreed with the Democrats, that the big tech companies act as monopolists, using their unprecedented power to crush rivals and exploit consumers.

Buck’s report suggested less dramatic antitrust remedies than the Democrats. Its changes would turn back the power of the big tech companies while avoiding seismic changes in other parts of the economy.

Meanwhile, Buck was accepting an increasing flow of money from the corporations’ major corporate competitors. For example, as of June 2019, Buck has raised $ 5,000 from News Corp. , which publishes the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post and whose chairman Rupert Murdoch is a major antagonist of Google and Facebook and a leading Republican ally.

Buck also received $ 3,000 from Microsoft, a technology company valued at $ 1.84 trillion that has opposed its major technology competitors on policy issues such as dealing with news publishers and moderating content. $ 4,500 from Murdochs’ Fox Corp .; $ 1,000 from Yelp, an online reviews site that has long held a grudge against Google; $ 6,000 from AT&T, which competed with Google and Facebook in the digital advertising market; and $ 3,000 from the PAC and lobbyists with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, an antitrust firm that has AT&T, Oracle, Salesforce, and Yelp as clients.

Microsoft spokeswoman Kate Frischmann said the company had contributed to Buck since 2015, long before he became top Republican on the antitrust subcommittee that year. “Among other things, he was an important voice in relation to immigration reform and intellectual property,” said Frischmann. Microsoft – itself a former antitrust defendant – has also actively spoken to the Antitrust Subcommittee about the panel’s investigations against Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook.

Buck received an additional $ 2,500 from Oracle, the large cloud company with a reputation for lobbying larger tech companies, and another $ 1,000 from Ken Glueck, Oracle’s top lobbyist.

In addition, Buck received a total of $ 6,000 from Joseph Gibson of The Gibson Group, a lobbying practice that counts as customers of eBay, Epic Games, Microsoft, and Spotify. Spotify and Epic Games have sued Apple for alleged antitrust violations, while eBay, as an online retailer, is in fierce competition with Amazon.

The telecommunications industry, which has defied tech companies in a variety of policy areas, including net neutrality, was the largest block of contributors in the 2020 election cycle, according to an industry collapse by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit that deals with politics.

The donation pattern provides supporters of the top tech giants with a rhetorical lifeline that they can use to attempt to portray the antimonopoly movement as the product of corporate peddling.

“If you scratch the surface of the supposed ‘Techlash’, you will quickly find this kind of corporate-corporate violence,” said Adam Kovacevich, former Google manager and CEO of the Chamber of Progress technology association, which also includes Google, Facebook and Amazon. “Unfortunately, consumer voices sometimes drown out companies trying to create problems for their competitors or to improve their balance sheets through regulation.”

Buck’s allies – including a coalition of smaller tech companies, progressive and populist Republicans – point out that there is a big difference in whether they get cash profits from companies valued at over $ 1.5 trillion like Amazon and Alphabet, Google’s parent company , or companies with a fraction of it accept value.

“Google has supported Shill groups like the Chamber of Progress for over a decade, rewarding politicians with millions of campaign contributions to evade enforcement measures against its abusive monopoly,” said Luther Lowe, senior vice president of public policy at Yelp. “Congressman Buck is one of the few brave political leaders willing to stand up against these trillion-dollar giants who want to distort our democracy.”

Buck has received particularly significant contributions from news publishers, who are among the most powerful competitors of the big tech companies, as he holds a position as the leading GOP co-sponsor of the Competition and Conservation of Journalists Act, HR 1735 (117) legislation This would allow publishers to negotiate better financial terms with Google and Facebook. In the first three months of 2021 alone, as he pushed the law forward, Buck received a total of $ 6,500 from executives at News Media Alliance, a trade association for news publishers, and Allianz lobbyists at Williams & Jensen.

“Rep. Buck is doing something very difficult and important: finding conservative approaches to antitrust issues, ”said David Chavern, president of the News Media Alliance, who gave Buck $ 1,000 last quarter, in a statement to POLITICO. “He showed real leadership last year when he wrote ‘The Third Way’ in response to the report by the House Antitrust Subcommittee. Since then, he has shown the consistent willingness to keep a clear eye on the market effects of platform monopolies, and we were happy to support him with our small contributions. “

On the other hand, since March lawmakers in Colorado have received $ 500 apiece from three lobbyists representing big tech companies: Frederick and Jennifer Baird of Off Hill Strategies, who count Facebook as their biggest customers, and Gina Foote of Finsbury Glover Hering, the Apple represents. This despite the promise that Buck made in April to swear off big tech money.

However, the lobbyists’ contributions do not contradict his promise that he would no longer accept donations directly from the PACs or executives on Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Twitter. His pledge didn’t mention multi-client lobbyists, who often have dozens of clients.

Ultimately, wealthy tech giants Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple have great power to advance their agenda in Washington as they seek to undercut policy proposals that would change the way they do business. According to Public Citizen, these four major tech companies combined spent $ 124 million on lobbying and campaign contributions during the 2020 election cycle, dwarfing the efforts of companies like News Corp and Yelp.

“I think it’s easy to get sidetracked by cross-company disputes and rivalries,” said Vaheesan, whose group is funded by foundations and does not accept direct corporate donations. “The bottom line is that Facebook, Google, and Amazon have become so powerful that they are even putting pressure on other big companies.”

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