Ever since President Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter, Republicans, Conservatives, and Trump Administration officials are increasingly realizing they are at risk of constantly being censored. In a recent interview, self-proclaimed classic liberal, Dave Rubin, warned that 2021 will be the year conservatives and independent thinkers cease to exist online. Indeed, the big tech giants all acted against Trump following the storming of the Capitol on January 6th. Parler, a Twitter alternative social media company, was also targeted. Apple and Google removed it from their app stores, meaning users cannot access it via an app. Amazon, too, notified Parler that it was cutting the site off from its cloud hosting service, Amazon Web Services, on Sunday, meaning that Parler will not be able to operate until it finds another web host.
Republicans are also at risk of being purged from the financial sector if they continue to express themselves freely. Last week, the payment processing platform Stripe ended ties with the campaign of President Trump and cut the campaign’s payment processing services. Platforms like Stripe are necessary for millions of businesses to receive online credit card payments, but Stripe claimed that President Trump violated the company’s policies against “encouraging violence” following events on Capitol Hill. Per Stripe, its decision is justified under its terms of service, under which users agree that they will not accept payments for “high risk” activities which include any business or group that “engages in, encourages, promotes, or celebrates unlawful violence or physical harm to persons or property.” For other businesses run by conservatives, it is also notable that its terms of service also listed “brand harm” as justification for excluding particular business whereby: “Use of the Stripe name or logo including use of Stripe trade or service marks inconsistent with the Stripe Marks Usage Agreement, or in a manner that otherwise harms Stripe or the Stripe brand.” This gives them the means to ostracize businesses whose views they do not want to be associated with. Indeed, activists on the left have been trying to shame companies into erasing support for Republicans.
Multiple companies have said they will halt their financial support of the 147 Republican members of the US Congress who voted against certifying the victory of Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election. Dow was one of the first, saying on January 11th, it will not donate from the Political Action Committees (PACs) it controls to any of the congresspeople who voted on January 6th to object to certifying Biden’s victory. The ban is to stay in place for the next relevant election cycle for each politician. Other firms making similar commitments are BASF, Eli Lilly and Company, Genentech, and Sanofi.
Newsletter site, Popular Information, written by @JuddLegum, contacted 144 corporations that, through their corporate PACs, donated to one or more of the eight Senators—Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Rick Scott (R-FL), Roger Marshall (R-KS), John Kennedy (R-LA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)—who objected to Biden’s certification and asked if they would continue to support these Senators in the future? In response, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association President and CEO Kim Keck said it was suspending all support to the 147 Republicans who voted "to subvert the results of November’s election by challenging Electoral College results." Marriott International said it will stop donating to all the members who voted against certification. Commerce Bancshares, a bank holding company that operates Commerce Bank, has "suspended all support for officials who have impeded the peaceful transfer of power." Similarly, AT&T, the largest corporate contributor to the Republicans who objected to the election results, announced that it will suspend donations to lawmakers who participated.
Deloitte, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer, Airbnb, Amazon, Verizon, Intel, General Electric, Disney, KPMG, Walmart, Holland & Hart, Southern Company, Exelon, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Dell, Nike, and American Express are all suspending political donations. Comcast/NBCUniversal, Hallmark, and Goldman Sachs told The New York Times that they were stopping donations and conducting “thorough assessments of how people acted during this period.” Facebook, too, told Popular Information that the company is pausing all “PAC contributions for at least the current quarter” as it reviews its policies. While the Washington Post reported that BlackRock will also be halting political donations.
Big Tech, Corporate America Work with Biden to Serve Whom?
In looking at how corporate American Big Tech may aid the Biden administration, we find at least 14 people Biden has picked to serve either in his administration or was advising his transition to have worked for Big Tech firms. Apple’s top lobbyist Cynthia Hogan served full time on his transition team and previously worked for Biden when he served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A former Facebook executive Jessica Hertz, who was a director for Facebook’s regulatory team, will serve as White House staff director. Emily Horne, who was head of global policy communications for Twitter, will be the director of press and spokesperson for the National Security Council.
David Recordon, a former developer for Facebook, will serve as director of technology for the Office of Management and Administration. Austin Lin, a former program manager at Facebook, will serve as Recordon’s deputy, and Jeff Zients, formerly on the board at Facebook, is Biden’s Covid-19 czar.
Biden’s Secretary of State pick, Tony Blinken, has also provided advisory services to Facebook through his consulting firm, West Exec Partners. At the same time, executives at Amazon, Tom Sullivan, and Mark Schwartz are on the agency review teams for the Department of State and Office of Management and Budget, respectively. A lobbying firm co-founded by Biden’s top White House counselor Steve Ricchetti, also agreed on a lobbying deal on Nov. 13 with Amazon.
Thus, there are many company executives, who in some cases, helped raise money for the Biden campaign or worked on the transition team, who have a huge commercial interest in pushing candidates with industry ties at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission—both of which are investigating whether Big Tech is behaving in a monopolistic fashion. Researchers tracking this say the moves are likely part of an effort by many large tech company officials to influence future policy-making. They are also making sure the Biden administration is not captive to the ideas of progressive Democrats and a growing anti-monopoly movement, who have consistently pushed for higher scrutiny of such companies.
Public/Private Partnerships and Contracts
Moreover, they may seek to influence policy via contracts. For example, Google’s former Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, a Silicon Valley billionaire, has been making personnel recommendations for appointments to the Department of Defense—at a time when Google has shown interest in pursuing military contracts and defense work. According to research from the technology accountability nonprofit—Tech Inquiry, Schmidt, who currently chairs the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI), sees defense work as an important stepping stone to more business in the $200 billion market for cloud services.
Further, Biden is expected to unveil a job-creation plan next month as part of his economic recovery plan, one facet of which may be a Public Health Jobs Corps, creating 100,000 jobs related to testing, tracing, and preventing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. If Congress does not authorize the spending for a corps, Biden would focus his job-creation in the infrastructure realm. According to Rob Shapiro, former undersecretary of commerce under President Bill Clinton, infrastructure would fit into Biden’s employment priorities as well as his climate priorities. He continued to say that “infrastructure is a very effective job creator, and it doesn’t always require legislation.” For example, Biden could propose to modernize the electric grid, mandate that government fleets meet stricter emissions standards, or retrofit government buildings to be more energy-efficient. Companies will be looking to lobby and secure contracts for these plans and UncoverDC.com will be looking into any collaborations that emerge, scrutinizing any conflicts of interest.
Carol King received a first-class BA (honors) in History and Politics from Stirling University, along with an exceptional commendation for a study on US public opinion and Foreign Policy. She also completed a year of study at University of London before taking up a Graduate Proctor Fellowship at Princeton University. She further completed a MPhil in American Politics at Dundee University. Aspiring to be a writer/commentator on American politics, she now writes for UncoverDC. Twitter: @CarolKing561