FAANG companies — Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google — spent record amounts on respective bids to influence politicians over the course of 2019, with Apple bolstering its lobbying efforts to a new high of $7.4 million.
According to mandatory disclosures filed on Tuesday, Apple’s lobbying expenditures for 2019 jumped some $700,000 from $6.7 million spent in 2018, reports The Washington Post. The tech giant earmarked just over $7.2 million for similar efforts in 2017.
While Apple tends to steer clear of political battles, the company does engage Washington on issues it believes are of great social or financial importance. CEO Tim Cook has over the past three years spearheaded high-level lobbying activities by building an intimate relationship with President Donald Trump and the current administration.
At first blush, the efforts appear to be beneficial, with Trump working to exempt Apple products from punishing sanctions levied as part of the ongoing trade war with China. More recently, however, Trump has asked Apple — and Cook — to repay those benefits by cowing to FBI demands to “unlock,” or break, iPhone encryption protocols.
Beyond Cook’s personal endeavors, Apple in November hired a pro-Trump lobbyist to navigate trade issues related to China. The company also lobbied lawmakers on consumer privacy rights and so-called “Right to Repair” initiatives throughout 2019.
Apple’s 2019 outlay sat far below that of Facebook, Amazon and Google, which respectively paid out $16.7 million, $16.1 million and $11.8 million over the same period. Google’s spending was down substantially from $21.7 million in 2018, the result of a restructured government policy strategy that saw the search titan axe about half of its lobbyists mid-year.
As usual, Netflix trailed the group with an $850,000 lobbying budget, up $800,000 year-over-year.
The increased spending goes hand-in-hand with heightened scrutiny of Big Tech, industry practices and potential negative effects on consumer markets that resulted in multiple investigations into supposed antitrust concerns involving Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google.
In July, the U.S. Department of Justice officially announced a probe into the operations of major tech corporations, seeking to shed light on potential anticompetitive behavior, monopolization and other related issues. A a sister investigation managed by the Federal Trade Commission is also underway.
Lawmakers are probing Apple’s business amid concerns that the company acts as a platform gatekeeper and restricts competition through “Sherlocking,” aggressive limitations on parental control apps and App Store management.