With Apple in the antitrust spotlight both abroad and in the U.S., Cupertino is spending more than it ever has before on political lobbying.
And CEO Tim Cook has become one of the most politically active tech executives in the country.
Amid antitrust scrutiny, Apple and Tim Cook crank up lobbying spending and political activity
Apple forked over a record $4.6 million for political lobbying in the first half of 2022, a new Bloomberg report said. That’s $1.5 million higher than it spent in the first half of 2021.
And Tim Cook, who once avoided politics, has become one of the most politically active tech chief executives in the U.S.
Since the beginning of last year, Apple has registered three new lobbying organizations with ties to key lawmakers who deal with antitrust matters. And Cupertino is tapping lobbyists directly from Capitol Hill. They include a former aide to Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
No more hands-off approach
The number of in-house and outside lobbyists representing Apple has shot up more than 65% since 2015. Even so, however, Apple’s lobbyist ranks are still smaller than those of its competitors.
And even though Apple is well known for not having a political action committee to make candidate or party donations, some of its Washington executives have increased their personal campaign contributions.
“Apple has been able to get by on goodwill and a light-touch approach for more than a decade,” said Matt Kent, who advocates for the left-leaning group Public Citizen on tougher antitrust laws. Apple’s heightened Washington, D.C. presence “is a testament to how big of a threat” Apple faces, Kent said.
Cupertino declined to comment for Bloomberg‘s story.
The report describes Apple lobbyist tactics that have had mixed results. For example, last year lobbyists for the iPhone maker tried to provoke a political battle between the House Judiciary Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee. Ultimately, they failed in the attempt.
Other lobbying attempts have succeeded, though. Bloomberg pointed out that Apple lobbyists “pushed hard” to modify the Senate’s American Choice and Innovation Act to make it easier for companies to fend off allegations of anti-competitive practices.
Amid rising antitrust scrutiny, lobbying has increased across the technology industry. That comes as U.S. lawmakers continue to consider legislation that could force Apple to allow third-party app stores, side-loading and alternate payment methods.
Cook uses his ‘star power’
Cook once hesitated to put his “star power” to political use, the publication said. Much like Steve Jobs, he believed Apple’s products could and should speak for themselves.
But Cook now visits Capitol Hill regularly. And he meets or talks by phone with lawmakers with some frequency. He has advocated for Apple to be treated differently from some tech companies because its business model doesn’t rely on harvesting user data. His keynote address at a recent privacy summit outlines many of Apple’s stances.
And this has not gone unnoticed by other lobbyists. A person representing the company that makes ProtonMail said, “[w]herever we turn our heads, we find out Apple was also there, making their side of the argument.”