Tech goliaths Facebook and Google will testify before Congress this week on how their platforms allowed Russia to interfere in the 2016 elections. However, it would appear that both companies, including Twitter, will be sitting in front of lawmakers they helped elect through cash donations.
According to Politico, Google by far has donated the most, but both tech companies have slid cash into the pockets of the majority of the congressional members of the Senate Judiciary, Senate Intelligence, and House Intelligence committees that will be questioning them:
Since 2009, Google and its employees have contributed to all but three of the 55 lawmakers who now sit on the Senate Judiciary, Senate Intelligence and House Intelligence committees, which are all holding hearings this week on Russian online disinformation, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Facebook and its employees gave to 40 of those lawmakers, the data show.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a vocal tech industry advocate, raised the most funds from the trio of internet companies, pulling in $124,625 from the firms and their employees. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who represents the industry’s Silicon Valley base, raised $118,906, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) raised $98,293. All three serve on the Intelligence Committee.
Overall, the numbers from Google have added up to over a million dollars since 2009, given out to politicians that sit on the committees.
Google’s political action committee and employees contributed the most of the three companies, shelling out $1.09 million to the committee members since 2009. Facebook and its people donated more than $502,855 to the lawmakers over the same period. Twitter and its employees were less active on the contribution front, donating $11,829 to eight members of the committees.
While it’s safe to assume that money will make a lawmaker go easier on whoever is in the hot seat, not everyone agrees the tech giants will have it so easy.
“In fact, the hearings will be an opportunity for the congressmen to show that they aren’t beholden to donors — no matter how powerful or affluent — so congenial inquiries may actually turn into testy interrogation,” wrote Eric Lieberman of the Daily Caller.
And he may be right, especially since these donations are public record. Any softball questions or reassuring pats on the shoulder may be looked at by constituents — and possibly other industries — as a weakness. It’s already difficult to take seriously anything being said by someone paid off by the very people he or she is questioning.
You wouldn’t trust a referee paid by a football team to judge fairly either.