Google, AT&T and Verizon Communications were among the top corporate spenders on lobbying the U.S. government in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to information released this week by the U.S. House of Representatives.
In some other quarters, tech or telecom companies have topped the list of lobbying spenders, but a handful of companies spent more than AT&T, Google and Verizon during the fourth quarter.
Verizon spent US$3.48 million during the fourth quarter on lobbying the U.S. government, AT&T spent $3.4 million and Google $3.35 million, putting them in the top 10 highest spenders among companies lobbying the government. Microsoft spent $2.43 million on lobbying the U.S. government in the fourth quarter.
The amount of lobbying spending by the tech giants raises concerns about tech companies buying influence in Washington, D.C., said consumer group Consumer Watchdog.
Google's lobbying spending for the year was up 70 percent from 2011, and Facebook's lobbying spending in the fourth quarter was up 318 percent from a year earlier, Consumer Watchdog noted.
"Google and Facebook would have you believe that they are different from other corporations," John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director, said in an email. "They are not. They are following the corrupt corporate tradition in Washington: buying what you want."
The group publicized the lobbying numbers to alert the public about the "amounts of cash that are being spread around," Simpson added. "Unfortunately it's how the game is played: Buy what you want. What's irksome is when companies try to say they're different and -- for instance -- hide behind the 'don't be evil' motto."
A representative from Google didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on the lobbying disclosures. Representatives from Verizon and Microsoft declined to comment.
Facebook's growth in Washington reflects the company's commitment to "explaining how our service works, the actions we take to protect the billion plus people who use our service, the importance of preserving an open Internet, and the value of innovation to our economy," a Facebook representative said via email.
Google spent $16.48 million on lobbying in 2012, up from $9.68 million the previous year. Its fourth-quarter spending was down 11 percent from a year earlier.
Facebook spent $1.4 million in the fourth quarter, compared to $444,000 a year earlier. For the year, Facebook's spending on lobbying increased 196 percent from $1.34 million to $3.99 million.
Microsoft's fourth-quarter lobbying spending was up more than 29 percent from a year earlier. For the whole year, Microsoft spent $8.09 million, a 10 percent increase from 2011.
Verizon's fourth-quarter lobbying spending was up nearly 8 percent from a year earlier, but its 2012 spending of $14.66 million was down nearly 7 percent from 2011.
AT&T's fourth-quarter spending was down nearly 20 percent, and its full-year spending down nearly 14 percent, to $17.45 million.
Amazon.com's spending in the fourth quarter declined nearly 12 percent from $690,000 to $610,000. For the year, its spending increased nearly 13 percent from $2.22 million to $2.5 million.
Apple spent $540,000 in the fourth quarter, an increase of 20 percent from $450,000 the previous year. For the year, Apple spent $1.97 million, a decrease of 13 percent from $2.26 million in 2011.
Energy firm Southern topped the list of lobbying spenders during the fourth quarter, with $5.07 million. General Electric spent $4.94 million, and aerospace firm United Technologies spent $3.89 million.
Several trade groups outspent the individual companies. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent more than $29.5 million on lobbying during the fourth quarter, nearly doubling the spending of the next highest trade group.
CTIA, a trade group representing mobile carriers, was also among the top spenders, with $3.4 million spent during the fourth quarter, while the National Cable and Telecommunications Association spent $5.88 million during the quarter.
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.