Hey Google… Which Way to K Street?

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Hey Google… Which Way to K Street?

Which company do you think spent the most on lobbying during President Obama’s last couple of years in office? The answer is Boeing, which many of you probably could have guessed. But the more difficult question is which company do you think has been the top spender under President Trump? Hint: it’s not another big defense or even drug or telecommunications company.

It’s Alphabet, not just for last year ($18.2 million) but also this year ($5.1 million) through April 24th, 2018 according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Here’s a breakdown of the next top 5 spenders after Alphabet this year so far compared to 2017:

  1. 2018-April 24th: Pfizer ($4.7 million) vs. 2017: AT&T ($16.8 million)
  2. DowDuPont ($4.5 million) vs. Boeing ($16.7 million) last year
  3. Northrop Grumman ($4.4 million) vs. DowDuPont ($15.9 million)
  4. Comcast ($4.2 million) vs. Comcast ($15.3 million)
  5. AT&T ($4.1 million) vs. Lockheed Martin ($14.5 million)

Our biggest takeaway from this list is the lack of other technology companies after Alphabet. United Technologies ($4.1 million), Bayer ($3.9 million), Southern Co ($3.8 million) and Boeing ($3.7 million) round out the top 10 list for this year to date, while Amazon ($13 million) and Oracle ($12.4 million) were the only other “Tech” companies to make it onto the list for 2017.

With all the scrutiny around the Technology sector this year, you’d think other industry leaders would heed Alphabet’s example as it has largely stayed out of the negative headlines. Consider these points:

  • Apple has the largest market cap of any public company, but only spent $7.2 million on lobbying last year or less than half of Alphabet’s $18.2 million. This year, Alphabet has already spent $5.1 million compared to just $2.1 million for Apple.
  • Facebook has received the most backlash of late and has spent $3.3 million on lobbying so far this year. Not a small sum, but even UPS has allocated more ($3.7 million) to DC lobbyists thus far in 2018. Based on last year’s contribution of $11.5 million, this year’s spend isn’t even close to half that figure with just a little over six months left to go. Moreover, even Oracle spent more ($12.4 million) on lobbying in 2017.
  • Amazon also gets a lot of attention in this area, whether it be from its contentious relationship with President Trump, the need to work with local lawmakers for disruptive technologies such as drones, or its large cloud computing contracts with the US government. The company may have been the 7th top company spender on lobbying in 2017, but it is lagging this year. It has spent just $3.4 million on lobbying almost half way through 2018, or less than a third of its spend ($13 million) in this area last year.

Bottom line, while these big tech companies have beefed up their lobbying spending efforts over the past few years, they have a lot of catching up to do compared to Alphabet.