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Tech industry steps up lobbying efforts

The computer industry has dramatically upped its financial stake in the nation's policymakers, according to a new report by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The high-tech lobby knows you gotta pay to play.

The computer industry has dramatically upped its financial stake in the nation's policymakers, See news analysis: 
What Congress really did according to a new report by the Center for Responsive Politics (CPR). Compared with the last midterm election cycle, the high-tech lobby gave 78 percent more to political action committees in 1997-1998, as well as in soft money and individual contributions to federal candidates and parties, the report states.

The top ten computer industry spenders doled out $11.2 million for lobbying during the first six months of this year, up from $8.34 million reported for the same period in 1997, CRP said.

For example, during the first half of this year, Compaq Computer spent 18 times the amount on lobbying and donations than it did the two previous years--$40,000 in 1996 and 1997 compared with $759,000 in 1998, according to the CRP.

Despite its legal battle with federal and state trustbusters, Microsoft also has been generous in giving to Capitol Hill lawmakers. The software giant tripled its political spending this year, according to the CRP report, giving $1.28 million this year compared with $660,000 in 1997 and $580,000 in 1996.

Top lobbying expenditures
(January - June 1998)
Company 1998 midyear 1997 midyear
IBM $2,592,000 $3,180,000
EDS $1,650,070 $1,110,174
Microsoft $1,280,000 $660,000
AOL $1,000,000 $340,000
TI $960,000 $1,306,016
Oracle $860,000 $400,000
Compaq $759,000 $40,000
Sun $680,000 $200,000
Computer Systems Policy Project $520,000 $360,000
BSA $520,000 $380,000
Netscape $440,000 $373,000
Source: Center for Responsive Politics

"The Internet has revolutionized the way we do business, and issues that surround the Net have moved to the top of the agenda for many policymakers," said Jack Krumholtz, director of federal government affairs for Microsoft. "So it's no surprise that you see many companies like Microsoft stepping up their participation here."

IBM, on the other hand, has cut its political investments from $3.18 million during the first six months of 1997 to $2.59 million during the same period this year, the CRP reports.

"The computer industry is getting more and more mobilized and savvy, and is building these political superhighways," said Jennifer Shecter, who analyzed the CRP high-tech spending data for the bipartisan nonprofit organization's December newsletter.

"Silicon Valley needs lawmakers to pass favorable policy decisions, and lawmakers need Silicon Valley money for their war chests," she added. "This just shows that the computer industry is going to be a huge player in the 2000 election."

The high-tech lobby has not gone unnoticed for its "charity." This year a handful of laws were passed that favor the industry, ranging from an increase in foreign worker visas to new protections for online intellectual property and a moratorium on Net taxes.