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 SchumerHispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act To Win 2022: Go big on reconciliation and invest in Latinx voters 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 MurrayBuilding strong public health capacity across the US Texas abortion law creates 2022 headache for GOP Top Democrat says he'll push to address fossil fuel tax breaks in spending bill 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. 

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 KlobucharOn The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan Schumer, McConnell headed for another collision over voting rights Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Congress makes technology policy moves 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 LofgrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit Biden to raise refugee cap to 125,000 in October Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally MORE, Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellGOP ekes out win in return of Congressional Baseball Game Greene heckles Democrats and they fire back on Capitol steps Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod MORE and Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis CorreaTop Latino group endorses Padilla for full Senate term Democrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates Democrats grasping at straws on immigration 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.

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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.