Big Money and Big Tech: How tech giants use amassed wealth to exert power over our government
As tech giants have come under increased scrutiny after a score of controversial moves, Big Tech has ramped up political spending and activated a network of lobbyists to work damage control in Congress. Americans of all political persuasions want assurance that our interests are being protected as we interact with technology companies; meanwhile, the industry uses its amassed wealth to influence regulations related to privacy, competition and more.
Data has become a valuable commodity for tech companies, and recent news has cast doubt on the ability of these corporate giants to ethically and appropriately handle the information they are gathering.
Over the past several years, Facebook has received the brunt of the backlash for failing to stop the spread of misinformation on its platform and, recently, for stating that it would not police political ads for lies. Twitter’s response to the news was to stop all political advertising on its platform, but that move has had its own critics claiming it will be harder for fledgling campaigns to get their messages out to the public and increase the power of incumbency.
Social media platforms are not the only companies in the tech industry facing public rebuke for controversial actions. Google recently confirmed that it is collecting health data on millions of Americans in a partnership with Ascension, a large healthcare nonprofit. Amazon and Microsoft have similar partnerships.
With all of the personal and private data stored online, user privacy and data security have become major concerns. While we’d all like to believe tech companies have impenetrable servers, data breaches have become more frequent and more severe since 2011. In 2017, there were more than 1,500 data breaches in the United States. In 2016, a single Yahoo data breach compromised three billion user accounts. And on November 6, Facebook disclosed a data breach that may have allowed around 100 app developers to access user information they were not authorized to have.
As tech companies have grown more profitable, they have ramped up their political spending, seeking to gain friendly political allies who will ward off antitrust legislation and pursue policies that allow these companies to continue growing unimpeded. The second quarter of 2019 was the first time Facebook, Amazon, and Google all ranked among the top 15 lobbying spenders, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The organization also reports, “Eighty-six percent of Facebook’s lobbyists previously held a government position, compared to 81 percent for Google and 70 percent for Amazon.”
Microsoft dominates the tech industry in terms of federal PAC contributions, according to ProMarket, spending nearly $15 million in such contributions in 2016. Google, the next closest company, spent just over $10 million that year.
Leading up to the 2019 Seattle City Council elections, Amazon spent nearly $1.5 million supporting candidates who would not implement an employee tax for large employers. The company’s preferred candidates ended up losing, and the city council is now pursuing campaign finance reform in a direct response to the effort.
These political contributions, and the favors they curry, run counter to the notions of a democracy rooted in the power of people. In recent decades, tech giants have been able to build vast amounts of power and capital. They should not be allowed to use this amassed wealth to influence elections or policies. American Promise is leading the cross-partisan, grassroots movement for a constitutional amendment to end big money domination of our elections. Such an amendment would enable Congress to limit Big Tech’s role in shaping elections and policy outcomes.
Regardless of partisan affiliation or political ideology, Americans believe large corporations have too much political power and want the government to do more to reduce that power. And fixing the issue with a constitutional amendment is also widely popular—85% of Democrats, 66% of Republicans, and 70% of independents support an amendment to get big money out of politics. Join this historic cause now to reclaim political power for people, not wealthy special interests.