Lobbying and Tech Companies
The Impact of Technology
The world’s dependence on technology has become more prevalent in recent years, its purpose being to disrupt the traditional processes we follow in order to perform daily tasks. In 2019 alone, the world spent $3.360 billion on a variety of technology products and services.
With technology becoming such an integral part of our society, it has become increasingly common that prominent tech companies expand their outreach geographically to grow in international prominence.
This expansion of technology’s influence and audience has led to a strong correlation between technological innovation and how much power an individual has in society. Rapid advancement in technology along with our increased dependence on technology has led to an increase in lobbyist involvement in this field.
How Do Lobbyists Work With Tech Companies?
The purpose of a lobbyist is to help their client achieve their desired outcome. When applied in the technological field, this purpose remains the same.
A lobbyist that represents a technology firm or company advocates for increased efficiency in society, a better experience for constituents, and a healthier innovation environment. They work to assist tech companies in their efforts to advocate for or against a specific issue that will in any way affect their business. Whether it be cyber policy, tax breaks, employment rights, or privacy policies, a lobbyist is an advocate for the technology company.
Although it may appear from an outsider’s perspective that tech companies would only employ a lobbyist to persuade government agencies to use their products, it is more often found that such companies employ lobbyists to protect them against or advocate for a policy that will impact their business or employees in any way.
Technology Companies Are Increasing Their Spending on Lobbyists
During the last year, we have seen a great increase in the amount of money that the big tech companies are spending on lobbying. People were shocked in 2020 when tech firms spent nearly $65 million in lobbying. No one was expecting an increase of millions of dollars in lobbying spending in 2021.
In 2021 alone, the biggest tech companies in the world (such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google) spent a collective amount of $70 million on lobbying.
This surge in lobbying spending can be attributed to a couple key events and types of bills that surged during 2021 impacting various different tech companies, but more specifically those that supported different social media platforms.
It all began with the January 6th attack on the capital, when Democrats sought more censorship on social media platforms and Republicans were enraged by such censorship that led to the suspension of Donald Trump’s accounts.
As the year continued, new bipartisan bills that would dramatically change companies’ business models and increase scrutiny of social media’s detrimental effects on mental health were brought to the table.
With such an increased potential for drastic change in the field of technology, firms were and still are forced to invest even more money than usual into working with lobbyists to protect their businesses.
As lobbying spending has increased in the technological field, it is important to keep in mind that this increase is evident in both the spending of tech firms to lobby their case, as well as in the spending of businesses and county officials to establish relationships with these companies.
Tech Companies Lobby for Personal Benefit
We can find various examples of such coordination with lobbyists among some of the bigger tech companies in the world. For example, Google works more closely with issues of telecommunication, copyright, and antitrust, while Facebook more actively advocates for increased accessibility to green cards for highly-skilled workers.
While both companies work actively with a lobbyist to achieve their goals, we can see that the political fields that technology companies are involved in are not always those that would appear most obvious.
Micron: A Case Study
Another way lobbying can be involved with technology is when lobbyists work to persuade tech companies to establish themselves with another company, businesses, or in a specific geographical area.
One specific example where we have seen this was when Utah officials invested millions of dollars into an incentive package for Micron. In the late 1990s, Micron agreed to build a computer chip manufacturing plant located in Lehi, Utah. However, in order to make this happen, Utah had to compete with the lobbying efforts of two other states to win them over: Nebraska and Oklahoma.
While Micron made no demands nor requests regarding the benefits offered by each of the three states, all of them individually understood the importance of making their state attractive to Micron.
The Nebraska legislature worked to pass three bills that would give them company tax credits, lower power rates, and allow them to use an employee’s state income tax for job training. On the other hand, Oklahoma offered land, infrastructure, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds to build the plant.
However, in the end Utah county’s offer won them over, offering a $3 million loan from the Industrial Assistance Fund, a promise to set-up graduate engineering programs, a promise to train Micron workers at Utah Valley State College, and $25 million in improvements to the land, sewer, power, and road infrastructures.
These strategic techniques applied by Utah county lobbyists was one of the sole reasons that Micron tech company decided to build their $1.3 billion computer chip plant that still stands today in Lehi, Utah.
Importance of Lobbying in Technology
With increasing power given to the government over the creation of technology and other affected areas, tech companies continue to have to increase their spending on lobbyists in order to protect their rights to create and facilitate business as they would like. With the assistance of a lobbyist, technology companies are better able to see their ideas brought to life and work values protected.
With the support of a lobbyist to advocate positive change and beneficial political involvement, small and large tech companies have the potential to influence the actions and decisions that the government makes regarding technology policies.
Stan Lockhart has been a part of Utah’s political community for over thirty years. His personal service has included serving as the Utah Republican Party chair and on the Provo City Council. His late wife, Becky Lockhart, served as Utah’s first female speaker of the house. During Becky’s time in service, Stan formed friendships with many of Utah’s political leaders. Stan has connections and relationships across the state of Utah and the United States that make him an excellent choice for a lobbyist partner.
For over 24 years, Stan Lockhart has served as a Utah lobbyist. During this time, he negotiated the two largest tax incentives in the history of the state. Stan Lockhart’s experience uniquely positions him as an expert at navigating the complexities of government.
He has worked in the technology and public service field for over 25 years. During this time he has contributed to numerous important public policy and citizen initiatives. His efforts were instrumental in bringing thousands of jobs to Utah. Stan’s expertise in the areas of business and industry has led him to be a valuable consultant for local businesses and industries. Because of Stan’s extensive network in local business, Stan was asked to serve as the interim President and CEO of the Utah Valley Chamber.