Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push

Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push
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Executives at the nation’s largest tech companies made huge donations to key lawmakers in recent months as Congress debated legislation that would reshape the industry.

The influx of donations came in as the tech industry urged lawmakers to abandon antitrust legislation that could make it easier for regulators to break up tech giants. Tech companies also lobbied Senate leaders to prioritize a bill to provide $52 billion toward U.S. semiconductor manufacturing.

Tech executives cut the largest checks to Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy MORE (D-N.Y.), according to recent Federal Election Commission filings covering fundraising from April through June.

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More than two dozen Microsoft executives donated to Schumer’s campaign in June, collectively giving more than $116,000. Thirteen executives gave $5,800, the maximum allowed by law, including Microsoft President Brad Smith and Fred Humphries, who leads the company’s Washington lobbying team. 

“These were contributions made by executives in their personal capacity,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.

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.

Schumer, who is up for reelection in 2022, is leading Democrats’ legislative efforts while simultaneously raising big money to ward off potential primary challengers. Schumer raised more than $11.5 million from April through June, a record haul. 

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats consider scaling back new funds to fight next pandemic Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up MORE (D-Wash.) also received numerous donations from executives at Amazon and Microsoft, which are headquartered in her state. Amazon employees and its PAC gave roughly $67,000, while Microsoft donations totaled around $48,000. Murray, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, is up for reelection in 2022. 

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Tech companies closely followed the Senate’s bipartisan bill to bolster U.S. competitiveness with China. In May, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple and Cisco formed the Semiconductors in America Coalition to ensure the bill included billions for semiconductor manufacturing and that it didn’t prioritize the production of semiconductors for other industries, such as carmakers. 

“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 group said in a statement following the bill’s passage.

Amazon successfully lobbied senators to pass the bill without a measure that would require online retailers to collect and verify information about third-party sellers, The Washington Post reported. House lawmakers are advancing their own version of the bill in multiple parts.

The tech industry’s top priority is defeating antitrust legislation that would greatly rein in the power of the leading tech firms. The House Judiciary Committee advanced a slate of antitrust bills last month. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Democrats urge tech CEOs to combat Spanish disinformation | Amazon fined 6M by EU regulators Democrats urge tech CEOs to combat Spanish disinformation Bill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol MORE (D-Minn.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, has said the Senate will introduce similar legislation.

California Democratic Reps. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenBiden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report House GOP blames Pelosi — not Trump — for Jan. 6 House erupts in anger over Jan. 6 and Trump's role MORE, Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellCalifornia Democrats warn of low turnout in recall election DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's riot lawsuit Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push MORE and Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis Correa84 mayors call for immigration to be included in reconciliation Californian is second Democrat to say budget package must include immigration reform Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push MORE voted against the most aggressive antitrust measures, arguing that they would cause more harm than good. Executives at Apple and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, donated to Swalwell’s campaign the day before the committee marked up the bill, according to filings.

Lofgren took in a few donations from tech executives in May and June. She received $5,000 from Timothy Powderly, Apple’s director of government affairs, who urged lawmakers to reject 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,” Powderly wrote in a letter to House Judiciary Committee members last month. 

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.

The Hill has reached out to the tech companies for comment. A spokesperson for Apple noted that the company does not have a PAC.