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Washington Watch: Amazon, Facebook set Washington lobbying spending records

Amazon.com with its subsidiaries and Facebook’s parent company set records in their spending on Washington lobbying last year with outlays of at least $20.3 million and $20.1 million, respectively, according to disclosures filed late Thursday and past filings aggregated by OpenSecrets.org.

The e-commerce giant AMZN, -2.51% and Meta Platforms FB, -1.20%, then known as Facebook, had set records in 2020 with their lobbying spending of just under and above $19 million, and now their 2021 outlays have exceeded those totals.

Amazon and Meta rank as the leaders in lobbying spending among the country’s five biggest technology companies by market value, exceeding the other giants’ outlays. Alphabet parent Google GOOG, -0.00% GOOGL, +0.17% and its subsidiaries shelled out at least $11.5 million last year, Microsoft MSFT, -0.04% spent $10.3 million, and Apple AAPL, +0.33% paid out $6.5 million, according to their disclosures.

The spending by Big Tech has come as the companies increasingly find themselves in American lawmakers’ and regulators’ cross hairs on a range of issues, with both Republicans and Democrats questioning the power of Silicon Valley’s companies.

But investors in the tech giants mostly don’t look that scared of Washington, as four out of the five companies’ stocks have outpaced or roughly matched the S&P 500’s rise of 16% over the past 12 months. Alphabet shares have soared 41% over that period, Microsoft has gained 34%, Apple is up 20%, and Meta’s stock has tacked on 16%. Just Amazon’s stock has underperformed the S&P, losing 10% over the past 12 months.

See: Senate panel approves antitrust bill targeting Apple, Google and Amazon

And read: Big Tech heads for ‘a year of thousands of tiny tech papercuts,’ but what antitrust efforts could make them bleed?

Amazon’s Q4 disclosure shows it lobbied on a wide range of issues, including counterfeits, charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, cannabis reform, telehealth, drones, high-skilled immigration and postal rates. Meta’s Q4 filing indicates it focused on issues such as election integrity, misinformation, privacy, immigration reform and artificial intelligence.

Amazon and Meta’s annual outlays are coming closer to eclipsing the most that one of the five big tech companies has ever disclosed shelling out on lobbyists in a year — Google parent Alphabet’s total of $21.9 million in 2018, which then was followed by a major overhaul of the search king’s influence operation in Washington.

Now read: Amazon has mostly avoided antitrust scrutiny, but that may change in 2022

Also: Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp are antitrust targets, but its metaverse mergers may be the victims

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