Congress to Big Biz: Lobby more, or else 

Congressmen, especially Democrats, like to attack lobbyists and lobbying. They also supposedly hate corporate influence through campaign spending. Why, then, are they always criticizing businesses that don’t lobby or give enough in the form of campaign contributions?

Apple is the latest corporation in the crossfires for insufficient influence peddling/brown-nosing. Check out these nuggets from today’s Politico story:

While Apple’s success has earned rock-star status in Silicon Valley, its low-wattage approach in Washington is becoming more glaring to policymakers….

It is one of the few major technology companies not to have a political action committee….

Compared with other tech giants, Apple’s lobbying expenditures are small. In 2009, Apple spent only $1.5 million to lobby the federal government, less than Amazon, Yahoo and IBM. In 2009, Google, for example, spent $4 million, Microsoft $7 million and AT&T $15 million….
“They’ve been very focused on their own innovation, and they don’t have a history of coming to town to get their competitors regulated,” said Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology. “But they’re expanding into so many areas that they’re going to find themselves in other companies’ cross hairs, so they probably should be ready to play defense.”
It’s a good article, and it discusses how Microsoft learned in 1998 that it can’t just try to, you know, make and sell software. A company in America today needs to play the Washington game. My favorite quote from the Microsoft episode:
”The industry had an attitude that government should do what it needs to do but leave us alone,” complains one Hill technology staffer. ”Their hands-off approach to Washington will come back to haunt them.”
The same story happened with hedge funds. Chuck Schumer told hedge funds they needed to lobby more and play politics more. So they did — ramping up campaign contributions and K Street spending, eventually hiring Schumer’s banking staffer as a lobbyist. She’s now a fundraiser for Schumer.

The tourism industry, too. As I wrote last summer:

In 2005 Rep. Bill Delahunt, a Democrat who represents Cape Cod, addressed the Washington Summit of the Travel Business Roundtable, and urged it to lobby more. Fed News reported, “The Congressman called on the industry to wage a more aggressive, bipartisan campaign.”

It’s not every day that a lawmaker issues a clarion call for more lobbying, so the industry obliged with enthusiasm. The Travel Business Roundtable registered as a lobbying organization in 2006, changed its name to the Discover America Partnership, and hired Steven Schwadron, Delahunt’s longtime chief of staff, as its K Street lobbyist.

More lobbying benefits lawmakers. More lobbying means more people begging you for favors. It means more people hiring your staffers as lobbyists — staffers who then become your fundraisers. It also means more job prospects for you when you call it quits.

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Timothy P. Carney

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