Shivetya 7 days ago

Isn't this the point of politicians pressuring corporations? I remember back, way back, when Apple was caught off guard and "appropriately" stepped up with lobbying and political contributions.

It is hard for me to find fault with any company which lobbies the government because they have no choice. If they don't play the game someone else will and use their influence to get the power of government applied to their competitors directly or indirectly.

One way to fix it is not to prevent anyone from spending money on campaigns but to instead prohibit politicians, their immediate family, and relatives, from participating in any position that may have influence over a regulating body. It is very common to have family of politicians benefit by either getting jobs directly with a lobbying company or lobbying firm but the other method is through PACs which pay them huge salaries for part time work.

I could care less what they do before they are in office but once in it needs to be clamped down. congress and their relatives are more likely to increase their wealth by magnitudes than lose it, the reason is simple, they structured the rules to benefit them and make it nigh impossible to unseat them

  • andrewla 7 days ago

    > One way to fix it is not to prevent anyone from spending money on campaigns but to instead prohibit politicians, their immediate family, and relatives, from participating in any position that may have influence over a regulating body. It is very common to have family of politicians benefit by either getting jobs directly with a lobbying company or lobbying firm but the other method is through PACs which pay them huge salaries for part time work.

    This is explicitly forbidden by both House and Senate rules. If you have concrete examples, I would recommend publishing them where you can or contacting the correct committee [1] or [2]. These are specific implementations of the statutory rules about bribery, and the case you describe is almost certainly applicable.

    The biggest commonly used loophole in this policy is that there are no restrictions after the politician leaves office, which leads to the so-called "revolving door" where former politicians are employed as lobbyists [3]. While the practice makes sense in a good faith setting -- former legislators are familiar with the processes and individuals, and thus can be more effective at presenting the information that the lobbying organization wants to bring to their attention -- ethically it is a minefield because it is impossible to distinguish it from deferred bribery.

    [1] https://www.ethics.senate.gov/public/

    [2] https://ethics.house.gov/contact-us

    [3] https://www.opensecrets.org/revolving/top.php?display=Z

  • dfrage 7 days ago

    A very good book length treatment of this can be found in Peter Schweizer's Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0544103343/

    And it just so happens that his latest book covers the family angle: Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062569368/

    Big companies don't have any choice if they want to stay in existence without shakedowns that might end up crushing them. Microsoft's biggest crime in the 1990s as Washington viewed it? Not spending enough money there.

  • darksaints 7 days ago

    I'm of the opinion that the effect of lobbying is tiny. Lobbyists are communicating with representatives about policy...something that every organization should attempt to do. Politicians rely on lobbyists to inform their decisions.

    The real culprit in the pervasive corporatism in the US is campaign finance. Quid pro quo is the name of the game here. Politicians know that if corporations aren't helping them get elected that they will be helping their opponents get elected. It's a hell of a lot easier to say no to a lobbyist than it is to a campaign donor that could easily turn on you. If we banned corporate lobbying, Congress would simply make more uninformed decisions, but banning corporate campaign finance would eliminate an incentive for deliberately bad decisions.

    • btilly 7 days ago

      It looks to me like your opinion is based on drawing an artificial distinction between "real lobbyists" and what real lobbyists actually do.

      It is the job of lobbyists to get politicians to do what the lobbyist wants. Campaign finance, job offers, favors for people the politician cares about, status symbols such as honorary degrees - all are normal stock in trade for a lobbyist.

      That said, I agree. Lobbyists who do none of the things that are known to be effective, are ineffective and do not have an impact. They also do not deliver results and do not tend to get happy clients.

      • andrewla 7 days ago

        Lobbying has a real and narrow legal definition, and it does not include the other things you list there. It sounds like you're agreeing with GP and that you don't think that lobbying is that effective.

  • sandworm101 7 days ago

    >>> instead prohibit politicians, their immediate family, and relatives, from participating in any position

    An interesting idea in principal, but not legal or even practical under western systems of government. If my brother runs for office and wins, that shouldn't limit my employment options. We aren't going to fire people from government jobs because of the actions of their family members.

    • BubRoss 7 days ago

      Not legal? That's literally what nepotism laws are about.

justaguyhere 7 days ago

I honestly don't know who is worse these days - wall street firms or big tech companies. These (Google, Amazon ... ) were the same companies that we looked up to, just a few years ago. How much things can change in such a short time :(

  • jeletonskelly 7 days ago

    I, for one, still look up to them. I don't completely understand where the negative views started, but I suspect it was with Facebook, fake news, and the election or maybe the Amazon HQ2 disaster.

    Now, for some reason, they are being demonized for being large and participating in a system that has existed for centuries. They got large because they built things people wanted. What's wrong with that? I just don't get it. It's like a mob with pitchforks is forming to break-up "big tech" and they won't be satisfied until they've slayed the giants whether it's justified or not.

    • techsupporter 7 days ago

      > Now, for some reason, they are being demonized for being large and participating in a system that has existed for centuries.

      I think for a lot of people, myself included, it's because we weren't supposed to just "participate" in that system. We meant to improve it, to make it more fair, and more useful for all people. To improve lives and do no evil, as it were.

      Instead, we've wound up with the exact same robber barons of old. This time, instead of trains or oil or telegraph poles, we've created behemoths that actively try to spy on, categorize, and monetize people to extents never before dreamed possible.

      Worse, lots of the people around us--people who claimed to be interested in the same things we were--are now demonizing us for our long-held views, "privacy obviously isn't that important because people so willingly give it up just read the terms of service" and "steady jobs with benefits stifle innovation being paid by the piece as a transient worker with no employment protections is the new hotness because people so willingly sign up for it just read the terms of service."

      Lots of people lined up to take hatchets to Microsoft twenty years ago but now Google and Amazon get away with much worse far more often and they're deemed untouchable. That baffles me. I can't "look up" to those companies who came after and trampled over the imperfect vision of people who came before, especially when they started out trying to build the vision we thought we said we wanted but then turned to the path that makes the most money in bulk even though it compromises almost all of those beliefs.

    • indigochill 7 days ago

      >They got large because they built things people wanted.

      Yes, but since then they've all made some public missteps. Facebook has repeatedly abused user data, Amazon routinely sells counterfeits, Google leverages user data for advertising and has a questionable track record with China, etc... People see that and feel like they want to switch to some competitor, but they don't know of one because Google, Facebook, and Amazon are the dominant parts of their experience of the internet.

      What I think most people don't realize is that the world does not in fact revolve around Google/Amazon/Facebook and despite their market share, they don't actually have monopolies in their industries. *diaspora is a thing. So is Duck Duck Go. So is Ali Express (or, you know, just buying stuff at a brick and mortar store) And so on.

      In the context of this ignorance, I think it becomes easier to sympathize with some pitchfork rattling.

    • rchaud 7 days ago

      You seem to hvae a very black and white view of how history unfolds. There isn't a single moment when the tide turns (and I don't believe it has). It's the result of small things adding up over time.

      Since the late '90s, states and local communities have argued that Amazon's ability to skirt charging local sales tax in most states gave it an unfair price advantage. It took years for the laws to close that loophole because we didn't previously have a major business that could sell exclusively online without opening in-state stores.

      > They got large because they built things people wanted.

      Again, this is a selective reading of history. Amazon was making losses consistently until about 2004, 10 years into its life. It was kept afloat by investors and lenders, not customers.

    • justaguyhere 7 days ago

      I just don't get it

      There have always been powerful business entities in history and there will always be - they could be banks, oil companies, rail companies etc. The difference between these companies and tech companies is this - tech companies are extraordinarily powerful and pervasive. It is very, very difficult to avoid using Google for example. Even if I stopped using all Google products today, I still have to email people who are using gmail. I don't use Facebook, but I am pretty sure they have tons of info on me, because of shadow profiles. And so on.

      "Big tech" as you call them, they have unbelievable amount of power over our lives than other "big" whatever. That is why people are worried, and rightfully so.

    • atom-morgan 7 days ago

      > They got large because they built things people wanted.

      True, to an extent. They could become even bigger because city governments were openly willing to give them billions in tax breaks.

      Small businesses don't get benefits like this from the government. Nobody should.

  • blitmap 7 days ago

    I think it was difficult to find understanding in an exchange broker, so we distrusted them. We wanted to change the world and build technologies befitting the 21st century, and could not see how they might grow into monsters. So many good intentions built by a tech giant made of ourselves.

  • ousta 7 days ago

    that is the global narattive nowadays. tech is evil. tech cant raise price of rice for millions of humans being in a few seconds. tech does not have the power to remove houses from their owners and put people in the street. Finance does

vicpara 7 days ago

You either allow lobbying or ban it. Amazon used a legal process to tip the balance in their favour. The entire lobbying thing does sound to me like a hack in the entire democratic process.

People should vote not companies.

  • afarrell 7 days ago

    Lobbying in some form is explicitly protected by the 1st amendment. The question is: If you form a contract for someone else to petition for a redress of greivances on you behalf, is that contract void?

    • badpun 7 days ago

      My limited (understanding) of the state of things in the US is that the lobbying itself is a problem mostly because the whole political system is driven by donations, which of course disproportionally come from the rich actors. Here in Poland the parties are sponsored by the state itself and donations are a very limited factor, which makes the lobbying not very effective and hence not a real factor.

      • andrewla 7 days ago

        That the system is driven by donations is true, but misleading -- the maximum amount that any person or PAC can donate to a candidate is $5000.

        Only by acting collectively can this sort of thing make a difference. Large organizations like the National Rifle Associations have influence not because they can bribe politicians through donations, but because their large membership means that an endorsement or condemnation from that organization can cause the members to act individually in support of or against a politician.

        For that matter, political parties in the United States are really no more than giant PAC in themselves -- they help candidates by narrowing their field of support to a single candidate in elections and by helping them get the signatures necessary to get on the ballots (which are technically open to anyone, not just those affiliated with a party), in exchange for which members of the party are expected, to some degree, to support party-line initiatives.

        • darksaints 7 days ago

          > the maximum amount that any person or PAC can donate to a candidate is $5000.

          This is not true for super PACs. Their only restriction is that they can't coordinate directly with a candidate. This is problematic because it is incredibly simple to coordinate directly but hide your tracks, and it's also incredibly simple to coordinate indirectly.

    • coredog64 7 days ago

      Note that this is also what labor unions and advocacy organizations like the ACLU operate under. Are we still so blasé about “corporations shouldn’t have 1A rights”?

      To preempt, campaign contributions are considered speech because (in theory) there are legal limits on what you can do with them.

    • snarfy 7 days ago

      1st amendment rights apply to people. They should not apply to corporations.

      • solomatov 7 days ago

        And what about NGOs? What's the difference between NGOs and corporations?

        • vonmoltke 7 days ago

          NGOs are corporations, legally.

          • solomatov 7 days ago

            Yes, they are :-) And forbidding them from lobbying will prevent people from organizing groups protecting their interests.

      • abtinf 7 days ago

        So you think the New York Times doesn’t have free speech rights?

        • snarfy 5 days ago

          In the context of lobbying, they shouldn't. Should Fox News? They could lobby that all press needs a specific press badge to cover certain media events. The problem isn't free speech, it's free speech in the context of lobbying. If lobbying is free speech and corporations have free speech, what should go, lobbying or free speech? Having both is clearly a problem.

      • aetherson 7 days ago

        Corporations are made up of people.

        How would you go about restricting corporate speech without restricting people's speech?

        And, more so, why would you want to?

        Scenario A: 1,000 people organize into a company. One of those people is the Founder/CEO who takes the vast majority of the money out of the company into his personal wealth. It is uncontested that this natural person can then use his wealth to buy ads/throw big dinner parties and invite politicians/etc. right?

        Scenario B: 1,000 people organize into a company. They distribute the money of the company relatively equally, meaning that no single person in the company has enough money to buy ads/throw big dinner parties and invite politicians/etc. But they think it's important for their company to lobby. But in your world, they can't.

        What principle is being served here? Make sure that only the personally wealthy can speak? That doesn't sound amazing.

        What exact types of groups do you want to deny speech rights to? "Company" is a vague term. Do you want to deny speech rights to non-profits? To political parties? If you deny speech rights only to corporations organized under certain for-profit tax rules, do you imagine that it would be hard for Amazon to work around that rule?

        • snarfy 7 days ago

          > But they think it's important for their company to lobby. But in your world, they can't.

          Sure they can, just not under the (limited liability) umbrella of the corporation. Do you believe the lobbying done by Amazon is approved of by all Amazon employees? Do you want foreign corporations lobbying the government?

          • aetherson 7 days ago

            What does it mean for people not to be able to do things "under the umbrella of the corporation"? Are they allowed to pool their resources or aren't they? If they are, but they have to wink and say, "But this money that stems from the company is funneled through a different resource-pooling group," how do you imagine the world is different? Industry lobbying groups already exist.

            The fact that not all Amazon employees approve of the lobbying is irrelevant. Not all union members approve of all the union lobbying done. Should we silence unions? Not all members of a political party approve of all the positions taken by political parties. Should we silence political parties? When people join up into groups, they trade increased power for the fact that the group will not perfectly reflect their preferences.

            It surely is the case that lots of people who work at Amazon want Amazon to continue to lobby for things that will help Amazon become more valuable, thus making it less likely they will be laid off and making their equity more valuable.

            In what way is the world better if Amazon increases Jeff Bezos' salary by $AMOUNT_THEY_SPEND_ON_LOBBYING and then Jeff Bezos spends that money on lobbying for whatever he wants, which surely includes "making Amazon successful"? Even if Amazon rigorously does not direct him to spend that money or audit his efforts?

            I'm fine with foreign companies lobbying the government. Why wouldn't I be?

            • vicpara 7 days ago

              As a citizen, there should be no difference in how my vote is counted when I work for a company, ten or no company. If the company I work for is bankrupt or wealthy that shouldn't matter either. 1 person, 1 vote.

              Also, technically, companies also don't really exist. People do. A company, no matter how big should be allowed to fail and die. A human life matters a lot more. Does it? Do we want it to?

              Maybe we should start optimising our policies not with respect to GDP or economical growth but with respect to the actual living: humans, animals, fish and even plants.

              If we do want companies to vote then let's make it official. But then there are unlimited number of companies we can create.

              Let's vote with money than and stop being hypocrites. 1 person with 1M trumps 900k with $1. Whomever has $$$ can vote be it a company, person or dog that inherited the money. At least in this way we know how it works and change our behaviour accordingly but at least let's be honest about it.

              • aetherson 6 days ago

                Well, good news. Your vote is in fact counted the same as everyone else's.

                Is your speech as persuasive as everyone else's? Obviously not, and there is no way I can see to make that happen. If anyone has a proposal, then, you know, cool. But what I see in this thread is a lot of people making vague airy proclamations and then ignoring all practical objections like, "How would that actually work? Would there be horrifying consequences?"

          • darksaints 7 days ago

            The employees aren't the ones being represented by lobbyists. It's the shareholders.

    • andrewla 7 days ago

      > The question is: If you form a contract for someone else to petition for a redress of greivances on you behalf, is that contract void?

      I'm not sure that this is in the end a distinction that is useful. Even making such contracts unenforceable would not really change things. Neither party to the contract is in violation of the law. So if a group lobbies on my behalf, and I pay them, then all is well and good. If there's a dispute, and after they lobby, I refuse to pay them (even for cause) then the enforceability of the contract comes into play, but that's a little more rare and the extralegal system (like reputation) means that this will do little to curtail lobbying.

    • dhimes 7 days ago

      That's what makes it an interesting problem. How can we reduce the influence on government that money allows? I think all meetings should be public, with publicly available transcripts and/or recordings. They are free to meet, but not in private.

      • afarrell 7 days ago

        > all meetings should be public

        What if someone goes to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Arlington, Virginia? What if that meeting happens to have some minor official from OSHA in attendance? What if people go from the meeting to a local bagel shop?

        • dhimes 6 days ago

          As long as they don't discuss business, no problem. Things like this come up all the time. People inside a business can't discuss insider trading stuff at parties.

          But any talks that are explicit efforts of lobbying should be public and available.

  • cle 7 days ago

    What are companies composed of? People.

    I'm not arguing that companies are negatively biasing democratic representation, I think they are. But they are just people too, so this particular argument is pretty weak to me.

noobermin 7 days ago

Remember when internet companies were supposed to be disrupting the system, not co-opting it and making regulatory capture favor themselves?

  • JustSomeNobody 7 days ago

    I remember when people dreamed this would happen.

  • afarrell 7 days ago

    Didn’t this also used to be true of cable companies?

  • rchaud 7 days ago

    "Disrupters" are just temporarily embarrassed status quo fatcats.

  • mattferderer 7 days ago

    Lobbying itself isn't bad & is needed to help disrupt things. Politicians require lobbyists & experts to explain different sides to them.

    • rchaud 7 days ago

      You make it sound like they're lining up to have a moment with their local representative like the rest of us. As if there's not thousands in campaign contributions and in-kind gifts hinging on the politician swinging their way.

    • eeZah7Ux 7 days ago

      "different sides"? Are you hinting that a group of billionaire-owned megacorporations balance each other out and represent the interest of the average citiezen?

paxy 7 days ago

If you think they are lobbying now, wait till their Virginia HQ opens up.

  • YeahSureWhyNot 7 days ago

    I am really worried that once it becomes a major employer in Virginia area Amazon will actually stop spending money on lobbying and start using layoffs and other muscle moves on their VA area workforce to pressure public officials into caving in to their demands. It probably was the main reason why they 'decided to split' the HQ2 between NY and Virginia. Virginia was in play all along because of its proximity to DC and New York was their main choice because of many reasons that dont need explanation. The whole casting cities and states was a shitshow put on to get New York and Virginia states/cities to give as big tax breaks as possible. So glad New Yorkers didnt play into Amazon's greedy game.

    • stone-monkey 7 days ago

      Even if they flexed their employer muscles, that would only affect local officials. Why would a republican senator from Kansas care if they're going to cut jobs in Virginia?

      • YeahSureWhyNot 7 days ago

        because he doesn't want local families protesting in front of his local residence embarrassing him in front of all his other big shot neighbors?

        • stone-monkey 7 days ago

          I'm sure politicians get as embarrassed as the next person by public shaming, but forgive me if I'm inclined to believe they won't act much on complaints by non constituents.

  • rchaud 7 days ago

    Except we're unlikely to ever hear about it, as they'll be lobbying for Pentagon contracts, aka the government teat. Much more profitable than shilling knockoff Chinese trinkets with a site full of fake reviews.

  • malms 7 days ago

    But it's for the benefit of the customer !

god_bless_texas 7 days ago

Amazon's reach into the FAA is particularly hysterical. Given that Amazon would like to do drone deliveries and has pissed off the FAA in some regards in the past - specific regulatory language confirms this - they have a huge footprint and open door policy in the DC offices. Companies competing in the delivery space like WalMart, UPS, etc should be very nervous about the drafting that goes on now at Amazon's becking.

jimmy1 7 days ago

I think sometimes people assume that x amount of lobbying dollars = y influence, but it's not a linear equation at all. At the end of the day, it is still people you are dealing with, and sometimes people can happily take your money, make you believe they are going to do what they said, and then not do it.

Source: family members are lobbyists.

  • michaelbuckbee 7 days ago

    This just means that it's "pay to play" not "play to win".

    There was a freshman congressperson who noted that during their initial, explicitly nonpartisan policy briefings that both sides of issues were represented by different lobbying firms.

    Imagine if there was a policy briefing for Congress around encryption standards and the only voices in the room were vendors selling encryption software.

    There's no space in that framework to communicate with our governmental leaders about things like open source / the benefits of non-proprietary standards, etc. And it's that way for every conceivable topic.

  • mtgx 7 days ago

    Sure, they may not get their way 100% of the time, but studies have shown that corporate lobbying highly correlates with what U.S. politicians support or don't support. Meanwhile, what the People support has ZERO correlation with how politicians will vote for something.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tu32CCA_Ig

    Also, the U.S. system of "vote transparency" (votes are anonymous in almost all other cases, and for good reason) in Congress means that the lobbyists know which politician voted for what, and the politicians also know that the companies donating tens of thousand of dollars to them will know how they voted, too - so they will vote "accordingly" if they want that income stream to continue in the future.

    This is a rotten/corrupt relationship/dependency that should not exist in a democracy that's supposed to listen to the "voice of the people".

  • YeahSureWhyNot 7 days ago

    so what you are saying is its possible that poor Amazon wasn't able to get all the political influence it paid for and we are should not be angry at it for trying to buy itsel support that it otherwise would not have

    • jimmy1 7 days ago

      I think it's not as black and white. Amazon has all of that money because we as a society supported it's growth. We like Amazon, and we gave them our money. If the tables were turned, and you were a billionaire altruistic philanthropist, would you not attempt to do the same thing with your money? It's the same concept, just different side of the coin.

      Lobbying is not an exclusive concept. I could right now pay someone to go lobby the government for me. Obviously I wouldn't get very far, but what if my neighbors and I pooled our money together? And their neighbors? And so on and so forth and indeed that is how many lobbying arms are formed outside of industry.

      Ultimately at the end of the day, Lobbying is viewed with contempt because we have corrupt officials that weigh the opinions of certain lobbyist who are looking to corrupt the law for their own interests more than what is good for the general public. If you took out lobbying right now, you would still be left with corrupt officials that weigh the opinions of people with money more than the general public. But here is the kicker: you would do more harm than good, because now advocacy groups do not have a way to influence officials. Lobbying, however contemptible it seems to most people, exists because it does serve a purpose. Your elected officials cannot possibly keep up with the sea of issues in their constituencies. Lobbying provides a sort of self-selecting way for the more important issues to "bubble up to the top"

      What is always missing from conversations on lobbying is the hundreds of other lobbying groups that have as their mission to serve to improve the general good or public and how eliminating it would impact the good that is done by them (as evidenced by sibling comment by mtgx).

  • refurb 7 days ago

    And people should also understand where lobbying dollars go. You could consider lobbyists management consultants for the gov't. You hire a firm who will develop a lobbying strategy for you - who you should talk to, what you should say, who you should partner with, etc.

    It's not like you spend $600K on lobbying and it's a $600K transfer from the corporation to the elected officials. A lot of that money ends up in the hands of the lobbyists.

  • vicpara 7 days ago

    The nice thing about lobbying is that you only need to spend just the minimum amount that tips the balance. Just like Trump used money and what not in his elections to win just enough votes, where it actually mattered :).

    Another cool thing about lobbying is that you can explore the landscape and find the weakest link that gets you what you want. You choose your own target at your own pace and time. Unlike the democratic process that happens only now and then.

    Additionally, you can apply pressure in one or multiple points.

    Whoever is lobbying not only has resources as in $$$ but also has a bit more time to wait. People die, companies survive for decades or even centuries. You only need to get things 'right' once and then you are set for life.

    If it wouldn't work, nobody would use it.

dgzl 7 days ago

Jeff sure does love operating at scale.

duado 8 days ago

They have the most diverse set of businesses of any company, so this makes sense.

  • millstone 7 days ago

    Is that really true? What about, say, General Electric?

  • smt88 7 days ago

    Why is product diversity a driver of lobbying? Does Amazon have to lobby anyone at all?

    There are institutional investors who have stakes in a much wider variety of companies than Amazon. Why aren't they at the top of the list?

    • afarrell 7 days ago

      The headline says “more government entities”, implying diversity of regulations-they-care-about.

    • gowld 7 days ago

      Because investors don't need to lobby on behalf of their companies; the companies they fund can lobby.

deytempo 7 days ago

Interested in learning how to count how many times each company lobbied...

MrBuddyCasino 7 days ago

Amazon is also larger and more diversified than most other American companies. Is suspect their lobbying dollars per revenue hasn't hanged all that much over the years.

distant_hat 7 days ago

Maybe they are diversifying into government now.

maxk42 7 days ago

And they also own a major national publication.

blablablabla991 7 days ago

It's also bigger than any other US company, isn't it? (Head to head with Apple)

r_singh 7 days ago

I wonder if this has anything to do with Jeff Bezos being from Wall Street?

crb002 7 days ago

Thats because every Govt entity uses compute, and every govt entity needs a office goods supplier.