Here in San Francisco, the big tech companies are often vilified as evil corporations with no concerns about the common man. People who work in technology (“tech workers,” “techies,” “tech douches” if you’re feeling particularly angry or hateful) are characterized as uncaring money-grubbers who are out to destroy the city. I myself have written about how the increase in prices and rent driven by the success of those same companies is actually hurting the exact kind of innovation the big companies need to survive.
But, phew, let’s take a deep breath and step away from that for a moment. The vitriol and comment threads are out of control right now and, honestly, it makes me sad.
That’s not to say, however, that we should stop paying attention to what the big tech companies are doing.
Fact is, Google and Apple and Facebook and the other huge tech companies like them have a lot of money and in a capitalist society, a lot of money usually translates into a lot of influence. That’s why numbers like the ones recently released by Consumer Watchdog about exactly how much money the top ten tech firms shelled out for lobbying in Washington in 2013 are not only fascinating (to dorks like me) but also really important.
Here’s the breakdown:
Google actually dropped their spending (by 14.7%) to 14.06 million, but that still put them way ahead of the Microsoft, the second biggest spender, who shelled out $10.5 million. IBM followed with $7.06 million, Facebook close on their heels with $6.4 million. Oracle with $5.99 million and Intel with $4.39 million earned the fifth and sixth spots, respectively.
Amazon, Apple, Cisco, Sprint, and Yahoo trailed along behind, each coming in close to $3 million.
And to give the numbers a little perspective, AT&T – a more “traditional” telecommunications company – spent a total of $15.94 million lobbying Washington in 2013.
So what does this mean?
It means the tech companies are spending lots of money to sway what our government does.
I’d like to leave it there. I really, really would because even the idea of publishing another article that could contribute to the nastiness of the tech versus non-tech in my city is really wearing me down. However, the truth is that these numbers – like all numbers – can me a whole bunch of very contradictory things, depending on who’s interpreting them.
Choose your own adventure:
- Tech companies are evil corporations that are using their millions to destroy democracy.
- Tech companies have a right to lobby, same as anyone else.
- Lobbying is evil.
- Tech companies are lobbying for important legislative changes.
- I hate Google buses.
- It’s time for activism.
- Who cares?
- I walk my own path.
So, dear readers, I would love to hear your perspective on these numbers and, if you’re in San Francisco, on the current shit storm that is the tech invasion conversation. I just ask one thing: Let’s all keep in mind that everyone here is intelligent and well-meaning. No trolling or name-calling, please.