A recent story in MotherJones exposes what seems like it should be a much bigger story than its being made out to be. Google, Amazon, Facebook and other big tech firms are pumping a lot of money into Congress to influence the course of regulation as it relates to them through a new lobbying firm.
An ex-Google lobbyist who backed Jim Jordan is leading Big Tech's bid to court the left
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Reportedly, this new firm, dubbed the Chamber of Progress has been established to push big tech interests in Washington and court centrist Democrats. This lobbyist is being funded by the likes of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Uber and others, and is headed by former government affairs director for Google, Adam Kovacevich (that’s code for lobbyist).
The group, whose name is a play on the more conservative Chamber of Commerce, will, according to the article, seek to court Democrats and promote “technology’s progressive future”, as well as promote key pieces from the Democratic legislative agenda in order to “fend off tech regulation”. They will, we can assume, advocate for issues like progressive taxation schemes, taking action on climate change, expanding voting rights and more through organizing speaking events and paying for op-eds.
However, the bulk of their work will be in heading off regulations that seek to break up their market dominance and monopolies. The organization refused to say how much funding they received from big tech.
MotherJones notes correctly that Americans from across the political spectrum are increasingly critical and skeptical of big tech. And they should be. Conservatives have been upset about big tech, especially social media giants’ alleged censorship of conservative voices, while liberals and progressives have been concerned about anti-trust and anti-competitive practices as big tech grow increasingly dominant in the marketplace.
The article quotes Sarah Miller, of the American Economic Liberties Project, which calls to dismantle big tech’s monopolies. Miller says that this group is “clearly a kind of an AstroTurf group, intended to head off policymakers’ effort to break up these companies”. Certainly seems to be the case.
Over the past decade or more, Kovacevich , Google and big tech worked to court conservatives trying to fend off various federal probes into their activities. During the Trump administration, he led efforts to develop relationships with Republicans, and was behind Google’s efforts to fund various sympathetic academics and intellectuals. He has been described (by Jeff Hauser of the Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic and Policy Research) as an “innovative force in Washington for blurring lines between corporate lobbying and ostensibly public-interest minded academic work.”
I agree with MotherJones here that the funding and establishment of this group, with Kovacevich at its helm, is a major show of big tech’s arrogance. Google, Amazon, Facebook and big tech are not really progressives just like they weren’t really conservative a few months ago. They are working in often underhanded ways to sway public perception and legislation in their direction and influence important and largely bi-partisan legislative efforts.
Don’t get me wrong. Every company, organization or individual has the right to make its case, push an agenda and influence legislation. But, as I’ve said before on this blog, why hide it? Why hide behind a pseudo-intellectual public-interest think-tank? Why make yourself out to be a progressive ally when just 5 months prior, you were making yourself out to be a conservative ally? You’re neither. You’re interested only in yourself. That’s fine — just stop trying to mask it. Come out, as Google, as Amazon, as Facebook, and make your case to the American people.
From my experience, if someone isn’t willing to come out and say what they are in favor of openly, then they know deep down that they are only acting selfishly. America deserves better.