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Business Management

Uber, Amazon, Tesla ramped up US lobbying in 2016

Many major tech companies spent less money lobbying in Washington in 2016, but a handful, including Uber and Amazon, invested significantly more in attempting to influence politicians and the regulatory process.

The money, which totals tens of millions of dollars, is spent on workers and companies that monitor bills and schmooze with politicians and their staffs in the hopes of shaping laws in favor of their clients.

Uber, which is regularly in conflict with regulators, spent $1.4 million on issues as varied as autonomous cars, access to military bases for its cars and transportation regulations. That's almost three times the $470,000 it spent in 2015, according to regulatory filings.

Both Tesla and Dropbox increased spending by more than seven times to $160,000 and $725,000, respectively, as they expanded lobbying efforts that began in 2015.

The biggest Internet spender was Google, which poured $15.4 million into the hands of lobbyists, down 7 percent from 2015. Google's lobbying efforts are so big partly because the company has interests in so many areas, and also because it's rich.

Facebook spent $8.7 million, down 12 percent; Microsoft also spent $8.7 million, up 3 percent; and Apple spent $4.7 million, up 4 percent.

Amazon increased its spend by 21 percent to $11 million, joining a handful of companies that pour eight-figure sums into Washington, D.C. Others in that club included AT&T at $16.4 million, Comcast at $14.3 million, the National Cable Television Association at $13.4 million, mobile industry group CTIA at $11 million and Verizon at $10 million.

The drops in spending in 2016 come after several years of increases. Congress tends to shy away from taking much action in election years, and 2016 marked the end of the Obama years and transition to the Trump administration. In recent weeks, several tech companies have launched new lobbying efforts as the legislative outlook for the next few years becomes clearer.

Some companies have been able to take their pressure directly to President Trump, who hosted a high-profile meeting with tech CEOs in January and promised to make them regular events.

Two prominent tech names, Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, have forged closer links to Trump. That could be handy for Musk, who spent $1.9 million at his other company, Space X, which has much to gain from lucrative government and military launch contracts.

IDG Insider

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