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Another use for the cash pile: Apple’s ballooning lobbying spend

Apple (s aapl) spent $790,000 on lobbying efforts during the second quarter of 2011, according to its most recent disclosure report. The Associated Press notes that this is up from $560,000 during the first quarter of the year, and more than double the $330,000 Apple spent during the second quarter of 2010. Why the increasing expenditure on trying to catch the ear of U.S. lawmakers? There are a number of factors involved, and it’s also important to note that Apple isn’t the only big tech company with an expanding lobbying budget.

Google (s goog) spent $2.06 million during the second quarter, which was up 54 percent from the same time a year ago. And Facebook spent $320,000 during the quarter, which seems low until you consider that it’s actually almost as much as the company spent during all of 2010. Public interest group Consumer Watchdog said when those numbers were released back in July that these companies are “clearly trying to influence policy,” and there are good reasons why the need for them to do so is becoming more urgent.

Apple’s lobbying expenses go toward issues like patent reform, electronic waste and consumer privacy online, all of which are subjects crucial to its continued success. The company is currently involved in a large number of ongoing patent disputes, and would no doubt love to see patent reforms that limit the ability of non-practicing holders to use patents to extract licensing fees in exchange for Apple’s continued ability to sell its devices and software. Privacy is also a hot-button issue, with mobile location services stirring up a hornet’s nest of public and lawmaker concern earlier this year. And Apple’s environmental practices also came under attack in 2011.

As Apple grows, it’s not surprising it feels the need to influence the regulatory environment in which it operates. Lobbying Congress, the Departments of Education and Commerce, the FCC, FTC, EPA and the U.S. Trade Representative are all good ways to do that. Apple’s spend is still far less than that of rivals Google and Microsoft(s msft) (which spent $1.85 million in the second quarter, up from $1.72 in the first) but it does appear that a bit of an arms race is underway among tech companies when it comes to bringing their issues to the foreground among Washington decision-makers.

6 Responses to “Another use for the cash pile: Apple’s ballooning lobbying spend”

    • Well. Short of a constitutional amendment that limits campaign spending I’ll take the current contribution system over any other system. Early 1900’s supreme court decisions stated that spending money on campaigns is speech and is protected by free speech. So any candidate can spend their own money as much as they want. If we do not give politicians the ability to raise money, we will be limited to the richest of the rich in office. I’ll take the former.

      The one thing of concern is transparency. Citizens United has limited transparency quite a bit. That really needs to be restored. I don’t care who pays of my representatives as long as I know about it.

    • Basically yes. The good thing about this type of bribery is that it funds the political machine in a transparent way. Just as Darrel was able to see who spends how much, he could also see who they give the money to. (I guess this is changing a but with a recent court decision but we all hope the negative change is temporary.) These types of bribes are great because they are transparent. People can look and see who got money from whom and decide if they want to vote for that person in light of this information.

      If you are interested in the subject there is a great book by Rodney A. Smith titled Money, Power & Elections. It argues that unlimited campaign contributions and spending is a good thing when there is transparency. I can’t say I disagree with this in the US context.

      Also, the above mention court decision is called “Citizens United”. It is a very controversial topic and a lot has been written about it.

      Full disclosure, I am a political scientist by profession.