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Following Tech's Money Trail In Washington 61

Posted by timothy
from the can't-beat-em-seek-rent-through-'em dept.
snydeq writes "Having outlayed $111 million to gain political influence in 2009, the tech industry is clearly learning how to play the lobbying game, writes InfoWorld's Bill Snyder. And while longtime lobbying stalwart General Motors nearly outspent the tech industry on its own, the rise of lobbying among tech giants, especially those under antitrust scrutiny, is staggering. Google, which has been drawing interest from the feds over its online advertising business, has increased its efforts twelve-fold in the past four years. And while Google frames its sudden increased interest in Washington as a matter of growth inspiring greater civic responsibility, the company may find itself sucked further into Washington, now that it is party to an international spat involving both the US and Chinese governments. Among those that top the list of tech lobbyists, Oracle, Intel, and Microsoft all have come under scrutiny in the past year, with Intel accused of monopolistic practices and Oracle requiring sign off on its merger with Sun."
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Following Tech's Money Trail In Washington

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  • by Pojut (1027544) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:33PM (#31026502) Homepage

    ...more influence bought by money.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by spun (1352)

      ...more influence bought by money.

      Hey, it's okay when it's 'our guys' doing it. :\

      • From a memetic analysis point of view, the purpose of the regulations is to engender kickbacks, legal or otherwise, to prevent the officials from getting in the way of things.

        In other words, "follow the money" doesn't end looking at corporations and their donations to senators. You must also look at the effects the laws passed actually have, when nobody contributes. Who benefits then? 99% of the time, nothing is seriously broken.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cayenne8 (626475)
          Hmm. I think we need to work for a constitutional amendment, to basically say a corporation is NOT a person with 'speech rights'. I'm ok with incorporating for liability protection (without it that, small businesses would be in tough water in this litiginous society).

          But we need something to take our government back for the normal people, put OUR interests in general first. I don't know how to word it...but something to limit lobbyists and their interaction with politicos. How about all meetings have to be

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by youngone (975102)
            I think that US citizens need to get used to the fact that they don't live in a democracy. Read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligarchy [wikipedia.org] or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutocracy [wikipedia.org] We could argue aboiut which form of government you really have, but it ain't democracy.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by thomst (1640045)

            I think we need to work for a constitutional amendment, to basically say a corporation is NOT a person with 'speech rights'.

            Good luck with that.

            I think we need a number of other constitutional amendments, too, including one specifically guaranteeing a right to individual privacy - but I'm not holding my breath, because, according to Article 5, there are two and only two mechanisms in the U.S. constitution for amending same:

            1. Congress (both houses) must pass a proposed amendment by a 2/3 majority, and that amendment must then be ratified by 3/4 of the individual state legislatures or state constitutional conventions, or

            2.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "Hey, it's okay when it's 'our guys' doing it."

        Yes it is. It's the only way to win, so do it better than the enemy, end of story.

    • by XanC (644172) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:16PM (#31027134)

      I'm assuming that you're advocating stricter rules on campaigning, more restrictions on speech and donating, etc.

      That's going after the symptom, not the cause. The cause is that government has too much power. As we descend into banana-republicanism, everybody with any interests has to play this defensive game. Because at any moment, they could find themselves a political target.

      Restrict government to its constitutional duties, and suddenly these corporations have no reason to care what's going on in DC.

      • by twidarkling (1537077) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:33PM (#31027346)

        Restrict government to its constitutional duties, and suddenly these corporations have no reason to care what's going on in DC.

        And that's where you'd get most of the argument coming from. What would qualify as a constitutional duty? As the world changes, should those duties change as well? Should they be explicitly demarcated, or loosely interpreted?

        You've presented what seems like a simple, direct, excellent answer, but it's still as much of a minefield as anything else. But I'm Canadian, what do I care? You guys are just our largest trading partners, so I've no interest in your well-being as a nation. ;)

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          You guys are just our largest trading partners, so I've no interest in your well-being as a nation.

          You do realize that US interests own almost 45% of Canada right? (seriously)

          • sorry, wrong! Crown Lands [wikipedia.org]

            Unless you want to argue that US interests own 45% of the privately held land (45% of 89% is 4.95%)

            • Notice that I said nothing about land ownership. Try again, maybe this time with some relevant facts..

              http://www40.statcan.gc.ca/l01/cst01/econ149c-eng.htm

              • Two thoughts:

                1) you said Canada, not Canadian Corporate assets. Your usage would refer to either owning a percentage of the physical territory known as Canada OR possibly the people and government that make up Canada in the abstract.

                2) even the official report you linked to does not prove that there is 45% ownership of Canadian business assets by USA companies, it proves that 45% of Canadian business assets are foreign owned, a category which I'm willing to stipulate does include American companies, but

        • by trout007 (975317) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @08:07PM (#31029048)
          I don't know if you have ever read the US Constitution. The powers of each branch are explicitly demarcated. The meaning of the Constitution should never change. If the people think something is important enough to change we have a way to amend the constitution. If enough people think the government should have a power it doesn't currently have we can easily give them or take away those powers. People actually used to respect it. For instance we had an amendment to prohibit alcohol. We then passed another amendment to repeal that one. But now we let the government prohibit all sorts of things without an expressed authority.
    • by jejones (115979)

      The only way you'll get rid of that, or at least minimize it, is to restrict the power of government so that it isn't necessary to buy that influence.

  • MS Lobbyists (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:37PM (#31026556)
    Back in 2007-2008, I was doing lobbying work for an non-profit organization. At one event for a certain congressman from Iowa, I was seated between a lobbyist from Northrop-Grumman and a lobbyist from Microsoft (incidentally, I was across from a sugar industry lobbyist, and ended up getting into a separate argument with him about tariffs on sugar being why we have to use hfcs in soda and whatnot, but that's irrelevant).

    During the lunch, I got into a conversation with the MS lobbyist and asked him if he thought it would be worth it to upgrade from XP to Vista on my laptop, to which he replied "do you still have the XP disks that came with the computer?" "No," I said, "I got the laptop as part of the compensation from my last contract and it didn't come with the disks." "Well, then," he replied "I'd just leave well enough alone since you won't be able to go back when things go wrong."

    Frankly, it was one of the most sensible things that I'd heard anyone say then entire time I was in D.C.
    • Fact... before the big anti-trust trial against MS in the 90's MS had exactly 0 lobbyists in all of DC. People on Slashdot were so happy when the Gov. went after their favorite target, but in the long run they unleashed a much worse monster. I'd rather have a company that doesn't play nice in the corporate world than a company that doesn't play nice in the corporate world and has its manacles in DC.

      • Re:MS Lobbyists (Score:4, Insightful)

        by creimer (824291) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:52PM (#31026794) Homepage
        After the big anti-trust trial, MS was paying $200 million or more per year for lobbyists. Why? Because Washington can't ignore a company with $25 billion in the corporate treasury. If a tree has money, the politicians will shake it hard.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      um, HFC is far easier to use, transport, last longer, is easier to cook with.
      If the removed the tariff right now, most soda companies would go right on using High Fructose corn syrup. BTW it's no different to your body the sugar.

      Did you actually have a point besides making a statement about you ill conceived notion the HFC is some how worse then sugar?

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:57PM (#31026868)

    The anticipated increase in demand for lobbyists has led to a sharp rise in the NYSE, apparently in response to higher stock prices in the weasel breeding industry. Revised tipping fees at local dumps are also expected to change as the unfilled demand for lobbyists increases "landfill mining" to recover used sanitary products.

    Observers say both source streams should be on-line and supplying lobbyists within the year.

  • s/lobby/brib/ (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@slashBLUEdot.org minus berry> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:05PM (#31026998)

    “lobbying” is nothing else, than a euphemism for bribing. Which would be equal to treason for the politician, if that were not changed trough... you guessed it... bribing.
    Which would mean at least a decade of well-deserved prison or death penalty, in most law systems.

    Yay. “But it’s just lobbying. It’s normal.”
    No, it’s not! Way to twist reality...

    • by jgtg32a (1173373)

      It isn't treason, the US has a very specific definition of treason.
       
      But yeah, I agree

    • "lobbying" is nothing else, than a euphemism for bribing. Which would be equal to treason for the politician, if that were not changed trough... you guessed it... bribing.
      Which would mean at least a decade of well-deserved prison or death penalty, in most law systems.

      I morally believe in the justice of a death penalty but trust no government with the authority to actually carry it out. But I would make an exception for this in two cases: bribery and vote tampering. Voting is the holiest of holies in a democratic system and fucking with it should evoke the same short of shuddering horror as incest, pedophilia, and furries. Once people no longer trust the vote the whole system is fucked.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      No. Logging is simply getting in fronmt of a politician to express your view point/Concern.

      Lobbying is normal. It's been happening for the entire history of governments.

      Some lobbyest and politicians abuse it, yes. Not nearly as many as people no /. Most of which have no or little experience with politics.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      lobbying is nothing else, than a euphemism for bribing. Which would be equal to treason for the politician, if that were not changed trough... you guessed it... bribing. Which would mean at least a decade of well-deserved prison or death penalty, in most law systems.

      I really don't think that any civilised legal system would provide for the death penalty in bribery cases.

  • by inviolet (797804) <slashdot@ideasmat[ ].org ['ter' in gap]> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:11PM (#31027052) Journal

    It doesn't take long for an industry to develop (or simply realize) the reality that it is cheaper to lobby the government to ban your competitors than it is to out-compete them (or become commoditized). Even the good guys have to pay, because even if they are not seeking government protection, their competitors are.

    If you allow the government any control over economic activity, for totally virtuous reasons, you'll end up here. Eventually it becomes more profitable to regulate (i.e. to destroy) than to produce. At which time a cultural reboot is necessary.

    • by blahplusplus (757119) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:31PM (#31027336)

      "If you allow the government any control over economic activity, for totally virtuous reasons, you'll end up here"

      The same thing happens without government, cartels, monopolies, and corruption. You're just transfering governing power from one institution to the next, this is what is lost on free market extremists. Everything will not be ok if we just let it be. Human beings are the problem.

      • by philipgar (595691)
        Except, under a free market, lobbying wouldn't be nearly as beneficial, because the government wouldn't enact laws that would shoot down your competitors. Big business tends to love big government and big regulations. Regulations make it much harder for the little guy to compete. It's why many big companies are behind government actions which would "hurt" their profits (pollution controls etc). Although they increase their costs of doing business, it often makes it much more difficult for someone else t
        • http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4017147.stm [bbc.co.uk]

          (quoted)
          Market forces

          "Somalia is a pure free market," one diplomat told me.

          And the central Bakara market certainly looks to be thriving. Some businesses, such as telecoms, are also doing well, with mobile phone masts and internet cafes among the few new structures in Mogadishu, a city where many buildings still bear the scars of the heavy fighting between rival militias of the early 1990s.

          This large pile of notes is worth about $210
          But is a pure free market a good thing

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Under a completely free market, there would be NO competition.

          "egulations make it much harder for the little guy to compete."
          that';s just a stupid ass blanket statement. If it where true we wouldn't have Google because they wouldn't have been able to navigate through the 'regulations' to become MSs biggest competitor. Of course without regulation,, MS could have just paid the telco to shut them down 10 years ago.

          Your post is a straw man in two senses, you set up a false premise to knock it down, and it has

  • Give them three weeks to discuss and pass laws, and also limit terms of both the congress and the senate to a total of six years.

    Perhaps then they won't have as much time to warm up the graft machine. If you keep changing the lawmakers, lobbyists have to hit a moving target and the "will of the people" has a slightly better chance of competing with the "will of the stockholders".

  • by unity100 (970058) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:22AM (#31030970) Homepage Journal

    they all should get tangled with washington i mean. the reason we have been thrown at us so much shit trying to damage and subdue internet in the past few years was that the tech crowd didnt do any lobbying or care for it at all. in the end we had the anti net neutrality attack, then came acta. we still havent thwarted acta.

    had they got smart and entered washington before the net neutrality attack, we probably would have proper laws by now, or, at least we wouldnt be on the defense against megacorporations and cartels of the established order in the war for the internet.

  • As I recall, the US Government owns a chunk of GM.

    "And while longtime lobbying stalwart General Motors nearly outspent the tech industry on its own, the rise of lobbying among tech giants"

    GM spends in the neighborhood of 100 Million lobbying.

    There has to be law/rules/fscking clue about spending money lobbying yourself.

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