Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress made for great theater, but the questioning was not without conflicts of interest: Many of those who grilled him had received donations from Facebook.
According to The Verge, since 2014 Facebook has contributed $641,685 to the members of Congress who questioned Zuckerberg. The top recipients include Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).
The hostility of the questioning did not appear to correlate with the contributions. Sen. Orrin Hatch — who has received $15,200 in donations in the past three years, the sixth largest amount — asked purely softball questions. Sen. Booker — who has received $44,025 since 2014, the largest amount — asked some of the toughest questions. While these donations are perfectly legal, perhaps committee members should be required to disclose them at these hearings.
Facebook has just disclosed that its D.C. spending is on the increase. The company just announced that it spent $3.3 million on its U.S. lobbying effort during just the first quarter of 2018. This represents the largest amount that the company has ever spent in one quarter.
Facebook’s money was spent on lobbying the White House, senators, and representatives, as well as several government agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission. Its lobbying expenses were directed at privacy and security issues related to its social network, as well as for changes to the immigration system, “including temporary high-tech worker visas and employment-based permanent residency.”
Facebook also provided lobbying support for DACA and net neutrality, and has joined a lawsuit against the FCC following its decision to overturn net neutrality protections. So Facebook has both lobbied the FCC and sued it.
The increase in lobbying spending has been an ongoing trend for Facebook, as well as other high-tech companies. Facebook has spent close to $30 million since 2015 and has doubled its lobbying efforts in Europe over the course of 2017.
In comparison, Amazon spent $3.38 million and Google spent more than $5 million for the first quarter of 2018. Amazon lobbied on taxes, music licensing, and drones. Google lobbied on intellectual property, privacy, and law enforcement access to data stored abroad.
Over the full year of 2017, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google spent a record amount — about $50 million — on lobbying. So far in 2018, these companies are on track to beat that record. In comparison with other industries, Exxon spent $11.4 million and Merck & Co. spent $6.2M in 2017.
OpenSecrets.org lists all public corporate donations and recipients.