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Apple's Fat Wallet Finds Home in Nation's Capitol

Stocks in this article: AAPL

By Darrell Etherington, GigaOM

Apple spent $790,000 on lobbying efforts during the second quarter of 2011, according to its most recent disclosure report. The Associated Press notes that this is up from $560,000 during the first quarter of the year, and more than double the $330,000 Apple spent during the second quarter of 2010. Why the increasing expenditure on trying to catch the ear of U.S. lawmakers? There are a number of factors involved, and it’s also important to note that Apple isn’t the only big tech company with an expanding lobbying budget.

Google spent $2.06 million during the second quarter, which was up 54 percent from the same time a year ago. And Facebook spent $320,000 during the quarter, which seems low until you consider that it’s actually almost as much as the company spent during all of 2010. Public interest group Consumer Watchdog said when those numbers were released back in July that these companies are “clearly trying to influence policy,”and there are good reasons why the need for them to do so is becoming more urgent.

Apple’s lobbying expenses go toward issues like patent reform, electronic waste and consumer privacy online, all of which are subjects crucial to its continued success. The company is currently involved in a large number of ongoing patent disputes, and would no doubt love to see patent reforms that limit the ability of non-practicing holders to use patents to extract licensing fees in exchange for Apple’s continued ability to sell its devices and software. Privacy is also a hot-button issue, with mobile location services stirring up a hornet’s nest of public and lawmaker concern earlier this year. And Apple’s environmental practices also came under attack in 2011.

As Apple grows, it’s not surprising it feels the need to influence the regulatory environment in which it operates. Lobbying Congress, the Departments of Education and Commerce, the FCC, FTC, EPA and the U.S. Trade Representative are all good ways to do that. Apple’s spend is still far less than that of rivals Google and Microsoft (which spent $1.85 million in the second quarter, up from $1.72 in the first) but it does appear that a bit of an arms race is underway among tech companies when it comes to bringing their issues to the foreground among Washington decision-makers.

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