For all the grief I’ve been giving to Apple lately about the HomePod, I do think the company is great. And not just because of the products and devices they give us. But because of the work they do outside of the campus walls. I’m talking about humanitarian work or their support for helping more people learn how to code etc. Most recently, it’s been discovered that Apple spent $7 million last year alone lobbying the Trump administration. I won’t make this a post about why this is alarming, but to put this into perspective – this is the highest amount that they’ve ever spent.
Lobbying the government isn’t a new thing. What might be new, or at least a relatively new phenomenon is the tech boom. Those are my words. Technology certainly isn’t new, but the fact that tech companies now need to lobby the government is ramping up. In fact, in 2017, tech giants spent a combined $50 million on lobbying efforts. I will say this – I think that this definitely has to do with the Trump administration. Which means, when he’s no longer the president, I suspect these numbers will decrease. Of course, they will never disappear completely, but that is the way the system operates. And that’s ok.
Getting back to Apple for a moment though. That is a high number in general. But when you compare it next to the number of issues that Apple has had with the Trump presidency, it’s not a surprise at all. In general, Apple has had some issues with the current administration, but what I’m talking about are straight lobbying efforts. Re/code obtained the numbers from ethics forms, which companies have to complete when they are lobbying, in order to reveal their spending.
“Over the course of 2017, the biggest brands in tech warred with the White House over immigration, tried and failed to save net neutrality and weathered a congressional investigation into the ways in which Russian trolls spread propaganda on their sites during the last election […] The iPhone giant continued to press forward on issues like encryption and immigration. And the company — like the rest of the industry — advocated for the tax reform law recently signed by Trump.”
Immigration is certainly a hot topic among companies like Apple. When President Trump signed an executive order banning immigration from majority-Muslim countries, Apple CEO Tim Cook quickly responded. He indicated that hundreds of Apple’s employees would be affected. In fact, he sent an all-staff memo expressing Apple’s opposition to the ban and then later formally joined other tech companies in writing a letter objecting to the policy.
After that, Trump announced that he would be ending the DACA program. Again, Apple was vocal in seeking to protect Dreamers. But it doesn’t stop there. Apple then warned the Trump administration that planned visa changes will harm the economy. Tim Cook isn’t wrong, but how effective will this lobbying be? Think about it for a minute though. Without me name calling, the president has a certain personality type that makes it hard for him to admit when he’s wrong. So if he’s already got in mind that he wants to end net neutrality, will a letter from Apple (or anyone) make a difference? Apple is a private company, in that, the money they spend to lobby isn’t accountable to the public at large. But it does make you wonder if spending all this money is worth it?
I think that other presidents have been and would be more collaborative in their approach to some of these issues. But we don’t see that with the current president. Which is why I think lobbying is kind of a waste of money. In this case, the exemption is, of course, if and when it directly benefits Trump.