A political weather map of America would show Wall Street under a cloud, and Silicon Valley bathed in sunshine.
Over the Obama administration’s eight years, the technology industry has embedded itself in Washington. The president hung out with Facebook Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg and hired the government’s first chief tech officer. At least at the lower levels of officialdom, the revolving door with companies such as Google is spinning ever faster — as it once did with Wall Street.
Politicians have played down their connections to finance since the taxpayer bailout of 2008. No such stigma attaches to tech, for now. But as the Valley steps up its lobbying efforts, with a wish-list that ranges from immigration to rules for driverless cars, some critics warn that similar traps lie in wait: It’s not easy for the government to police an industry from which it poaches talent and solicits help with writing laws.
Hauser heads the Revolving Door Project, which scrutinizes political appointees. Even amid mounting concern over inequality, he says wealthy tech executives and their companies are still considered cool. In other words: It may be hard to persuade people these days that what’s good for Goldman Sachs is good for America — but it might just work for Google.
The five biggest U.S. tech companies are now the five biggest companies, period — at least as measured by market value. And they’re flexing that financial muscle.
The tech firms spent $49 million on Washington lobbyists last year, while the five largest banks shelled out $19.7 million, data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics shows.