Tech Companies Cool Their Lobbying Expenditures in Q2

By Jennifer Moire 

Most Silicon Valley companies posted modest if any gains on lobbying expenditures in the second quarter, according to the official disclosure forms that firms from Facebook to eBay filed with the government at midnight.

Parsing through the online forms can be mundane at times. But the documents offer a peek into the areas that leading tech companies find important to their bottom line; so important that they reach out to educate lawmakers, regulators and other federal agencies in an effort to shape policies to their benefit.

Take eBay, which was one of the rare companies to post a significant increase in lobbying dollars in the second quarter. The online retailer spent nearly $712,000 as compared to $482,000 last quarter. One explanation? The company opposes the Marketplace Fairness Act, which aims to let online retailers collect sales taxes. According to eBay’s filings, the firm also focused on sustainability issues and data center efficiency, third party liability, copyright infringement and trade laws.

Facebook and Google continue as the lobbying powerhouses of the tech community. Google spent more than $3 million last quarter on lobbying (NOTE: Second quarter figures were not available for Google at this writing.) Privacy and cybersecurity are consistently issues of interest to Google.

Another powerhouse is Microsoft, which spent $2.9 million in the second quarter, up $400,000 from the previous period. Microsoft was focused on a host of issues, from cyberintelligence and health IT and privacy issues that are a reflection of the size and scope of the Seattle company.

Facebook spent $1 million in Q2, down from $2.4 million in Q1. However, Facebook’s lobbying operation in Washington, D.C., is in its infancy as compared to Google. The social network tripled its lobbying tab in one year alone—from $320,000 in 2011 to $960,000 in 2012 thanks in part to SOPA/PIPA and the election.

Facebook’s lobbying focused on issues such as cybersecurity, privacy and immigration, according to the documents. The funding was separate from Mark Zuckerberg’s immigration effort known as

Yahoo!’s lobbying expenditure increased by $10,000 to $720,000 in the second quarter. Amazon also saw a bump in Q2 to $860,000 from $857,000 in Q1 (Amazon supports the Marketplace Fairness Act.)

It’s not all that unusual for companies to ease up on lobbying at this time of the year as the legislative session settles down.

Do you think these tech companies are spending their lobbying dollars wisely?