Follow tech's trail of money in Washington

The technology industry spent $111 million to lobby lawmakers and regulators last year, and among the biggest spenders were companies with antitrust problems

The Internet, it's been said, changes everything. But there's one thing it hasn't changed: spending big bucks to influence lawmakers and regulators in Washington. Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle -- all of which faced antitrust problems in 2009 -- were among the 10 tech companies that spent the most money on lobbying last year.

Of those four, Microsoft ranked first at $5.85 million, Oracle was next at $4.39 million, followed by Intel at $3.89 million, and Google, which spent $3.2 million, according to Opensecrets.org, the Website of the Center for Responsive Politics. Indeed, in its analysis of spending by tech companies, the CRP found that Microsoft spent more than any of the 408 companies in the sector.

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All told, computer- and Internet-related companies spent $111 million on lobbying in 2009, the fourth year in a row that tech industry outlays topped $100 million. The table below shows the top 10 spenders, based on CRP data; you can see the details for each company by clicking its link.

Tech company/organization Lobbying spending in 2009
Microsoft $5,853,500
IBM
$5,340,000
Entertainment Software Assn. $4,604,000
Oracle $4,392,500
Intel $3,899,260
Hewlett-Packard $3,310,000
Google $3,220,000
UC Group $2,770,125
SAP America $2,440,463

While $111 million probably buys a fair amount of influence, lobbying expenditures by the tech industry are tiny compared to those of the troubled finance/insurance/real estate sector, which laid out $3.89 billion last year, or the embattled health care industry, which followed closely at $3.78 billion.

At the risk of stating the obvious, it's certainly worth remembering that both of those sectors had enormous stakes in the political battles of 2009. And General Motors, the recipient of a huge government bailout, by itself spent $107 million, nearly as much as the entire tech industry.

But it's also clear the tech industry is steadily learning how to play the lobbying game. In a nutshell, Mr. Tech has already gone to Washington.

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