Over the last 10 years, America’s five largest tech firms have flooded Washington with lobbying money to the point where they now outspend Wall Street two to one. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon spent $49m on Washington lobbying last year, and there is a well-oiled revolving door of Silicon Valley executives to and from senior government positions.
Campaign-finance reports filed by energy companies show that in 2012 they spent $455,000 on corporate political contributions in Colorado, mostly in a diffuse manner. From 2013 through 2016, they have poured an average of more than $20 million annually into financing Colorado political campaigns for politicians and ballot issues as well as a new, unprecedented public relations effort aimed at molding public opinion — a total in excess of $80 million.
In 2016, the corporate PACs associated with Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Amazon broke ranks with the traditional allegiance of the broad tech sector to the Democratic Party. All four donated more money to Republican Congressional candidates than they did to their Democratic opponents ... $2.1 million went to Republicans, and $1.5 million went to Democrats. These PACs did not contribute to presidential candidates.
though voters claim that they worry about corruption, a lot depends on context. Partisanship plays a big role: Republicans cared a lot about the Clinton Foundation but gave Trump a pass. Besides, issues that the press and government reformers take very seriously often matter less to ordinary voters. A recent study of Berlusconi supporters found that the constant barrage of scandals simply increased their tolerance for corruption.
Trump is putting together what will be the wealthiest administration in modern American history. His announced nominees for top positions include several multimillionaires, an heir to a family mega-fortune and two Forbes-certified billionaires ... It is a group that has long spent big to influence politics. Mnuchin, Ross and DeVos each made hundreds of thousands of dollars of political contributions within the last two years
Trump’s campaign embraced Facebook as a key advertising channel in a way that no presidential campaign has before ... the social media giant was massively influential—not because it was tipping the scales with fake news, but because it helped generate the bulk of the campaign’s $250 million in online fundraising ... Because Trump wasn’t spending as much on television...it seemed like his team wasn’t investing in changing anyone’s minds. But they were: they were just doing it online.
George W. Bush’s first cabinet may have been the high-water mark of the corporate network’s influence ... the Bush cabinet was directly tied to 21 corporations, two degrees from another 228 and three degrees of separation from over 1,100 companies listed on Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange. No administration in history had as many direct personal contacts with corporate America ... executives at companies linked together by shared directors tended to donate to the same political candidates.
Think tanks, which position themselves as “universities without students,” have power in government policy debates because they are seen as researchers independent of moneyed interests. But in the chase for funds, think tanks are pushing agendas important to corporate donors, at times blurring the line between researchers and lobbyists. And they are doing so while reaping the benefits of their tax-exempt status, sometimes without disclosing their connections to corporate interests.
In 2012, President Barack Obama banned lobbyists from giving to DNC or paying for convention-related expenses. But this February, the DNC eliminated those rules — opening the floodgates for corporate cash to slosh through Philadelphia ... Sometimes the contradictions in Philadelphia are even more head-spinning, like when the very same Democrats who sound the alarm over campaign finance reform simultaneously reap big bucks for corporate influence peddling.
Even as regulators push to rein in compensation at Wall Street banks, top hedge fund managers earn more than 50 times what the top executives at banks are paid ... for the biggest hedge fund managers, these men (and the occasional woman) have more money and more influence than ever before ... They lobby members of Congress. And they have put large sums of money behind presidential candidates, at times pumping tens of millions of dollars into super PACs.