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Friday, August 26, 2011

Apple Politics

Our chapter on interest groups asks how corporations try to influence public policy. Steve Jobs's decision to step down as Apple CEO is an occasion to ponder the company's political role. Juliana Gruenwald writes at National Journal:

Despite Apple’s outsized influence on the consumer-electronics market, it is not a high-profile player in Washington, and most expect it to maintain this low-key approach under the leadership of Tim Cook, who formally succeeded cofounder Steve Jobs as CEO this week.

“It’s a company that keeps its head down, [and focuses] on its products. It’s rarely seen as a front-runner on issues,” Association for Competitive Technology President Morgan Reed, whose group represents many makers of applications used on iPhones and other Apple products, said in an interview.

Given how strong that corporate culture has been, I don’t expect them to change. Tim Cook has been running [day-to-day] operations for the company for a while. It reflects his culture as much as it reflects Steve Jobs’.”

In an internal e-mail to Apple employees on Thursday obtained by the technology news website Ars Technica, Cook seemed to echo this point, saying “I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change. I cherish and celebrate Apple’s unique principles and values.”

Apple belongs to a few Washington trade associations, including the Business Software Alliance; the wireless-industry group CTIA; the Consumer Electronics Association; the Information Technology Industry Council; and TechAmerica. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the company plans to maintain its current approach and staff level in Washington.

Michael Beckel writes at The Center for Responsive Politics:

Some lawmakers are among those grappling with the news of Steve Jobs' retirement as the chief executive officer of Apple.

Three dozen members of Congress held stock in Apple in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics. That makes it one of the most popular assets among all congressional investors.

Collectively, these 36 lawmakers owned at least $1.8 million in Apple stock, with the holdings of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accounting for about 55 percent of this sum.

Because lawmakers are only required to disclose the value of their assets in broad ranges, their collective Apple stock could be worth as much as $7 million.


During the first half of 2011, Apple spent $1.35 million on lobbying and employed 25 lobbyists.

In 1998, the first year for which the Center has data, Apple employed just two federal lobbyists and spent $180,000 on lobbying. Since then, the company has never spent more than $1.71 million per year on lobbying.

Last year, Apple spent $1.61 million on lobbying and employed 16 lobbyists.

The company still has a long way to go, though, if it hopes to catch industry giants such as Google and Microsoft in terms of lobbying expenditures. Google spent more than $5 million on lobbying last year, while Microsoft spent $6.9 million -- more than any other company in the computer industry.

Apple does not operate a political action committee, but for his part, Jobs has been a prolific campaign donor.

According to research by the Center for Responsive Politics, Jobs has contributed $253,700 to federal candidates and committees between 1996 and 2006. Of that sum, 100 percent has benefited Democrats -- including $167,500 to the Democratic National Committee. [emphasis added]