Open Secrets Ignores Big Tech’s Lobbying in ‘Must-Read Money-In-Politics’ Article

An employee at a money changer counts USD 100 bills in Manila on October 25, 2012. AFP PHOTO/NOEL CELIS

Open Secrets’ year-end listicle of 2018’s biggest lobbying stories — “The must-read money-in-politics stories of 2018” — makes no mention of technology companies’ spending on lobbying to affect U.S. politics.

Open Secrets describes itself via mission statement:

Nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, the Center for Responsive Politics is the nation’s premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. Our vision is for Americans to be empowered by access to clear and unbiased information about money’s role in politics and policy and to use that knowledge to strengthen our democracy. Our mission is to produce and disseminate peerless data and analysis on money in politics to inform and engage Americans, champion transparency, and expose disproportionate or undue influence on public policy.

Using Open Secrets’ data, the internet business sector spent over $58 million on lobbying in 2018. Open Secrets writes of the internet business sector’s lobbying:

A couple of things are pretty clear so far when it comes to this pervasive and growing industry: It favors Democrats and its political spending has shot up. Fast. In 2014, the Internet industry gave out $11.1 million — nearly triple what it spent in the 2010 midterms. In 2012, its donations totaled $16.5 million, more than double its contributions in the previous presidential race. Two totals at the top of rising sums.

The biggest spender by far is Google. The search engine giant gave out $3 million in 2014, nearly triple the sum donated by second-place Linkedin, an online professional networking website.

Internet companies have seen a meteoric rise in lobbying expenditures. In 2014, $47.3 million was spent to influence the federal government. Just 16 years earlier in 1998 (the first year that CRP has data for the industry lobby-wise) they spent just $1.2 million.

Alphabet Inc. — Google’s parent company — spent $18,370,000 on lobbying in 2017-2018, making it the ninth-highest spender of the 2017-2018 time frame among lobbying organizations.

In 2018 lobbying expenditures, Amazon spent $10.6 million, Facebook spent $9.79 million, and Twitter spent $780,000. Alibaba Group, a Chinese-state affiliate, spent $2.13 million on lobbying in 2018.

No Russian companies or Russian state affiliates are listed among Open Secrets’ top spending organizations or top foreign lobby spenders. Russian state spending on lobbying and political influence within American is calculated by disclosures mandated by the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Open Secrets lists the Russian government’s 2018 spending as over $2.5 million in 2018, of which over 85 percent is composed of Russian state-run news operations.

Open Secrets’ top benefactors include the Democracy Fund, the Ford Foundation, and George Soros’s Open Society Foundation. The Center for Responsive Politics, Open Secrets’ parent organization, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization issuing charitable receipts for donations it receives.

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