Google’s PAC spends in search of political influence

Mitchell Hartman Oct 17, 2014
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Google’s PAC spends in search of political influence

Mitchell Hartman Oct 17, 2014
HTML EMBED:
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The latest figures from the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington show that Google’s Political Action Committee has just barely overtaken the PAC at Goldman Sachs in campaign spending this election cycle.

Goldman Sachs’ PAC, which has helped the company to wield its impressive lobbying power in Washington, had spent $1.39 million on the 2014 election cycle, as of the end of August. Google’s PAC, named NetPAC, had spent $1.43 million. Company PACs bundle contributions from employees, but don’t include money from the corporation itself.

Google’s political money-play has increased massively in recent election cycles. In 2006, Google’s PAC spent $37,000. By this year, the spending had increased forty-fold.

As an industry, Wall Street still packs a much bigger political warchest than Silicon Valley to support candidates and parties. Investment-industry-related contributors and PACS have spent more than $125 million this year; the computer and internet industry has spent just under $24 million.

Bill Allison, at the campaign finance watchdog group The Sunlight Foundation, says the banking industry may need to spend more to have an impact inside the Beltway on legislation and regulation, because big banks are now disliked and distrusted by many voters. For the most part, he says, that’s not true of big tech companies.

“For Google and Facebook, they have this hip young image,” says Allison.

The big internet players also have a lot of people’s ears and eyeballs, says Mark Jaycox, legislative analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They use that to leverage their lobbying on Capitol Hill—especially about issues that resonate with the public, like online privacy. “Google and Twitter have massive followings,” said Jaycox, “and they use these outlets and social media to push for email privacy laws and NSA surveillance reform.”

Some of the tech industry’s key legislative priorities, though, aren’t so widely popular, or even well-known to the general public. Those issues include raising the number of visas available for skilled foreign technology workers, said Princeton political historian Julian Zelizer.

“They’re fighting for everything from immigration reform to tax credits, and soon I’m sure, monopoly issues,” said Zelizer. “So they’re going to give a lot of money all over, to both parties.”

Still, Silicon Valley’s general reputation for leaning left comes through in some of the Center for Responsive Politics’ data. The industry’s cumulative political contributions this year have split 60-40 — for Democrats.

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