Amazon, Facebook and Google Turn To Deep Network of Political Allies To Battle Back Antitrust Probes

Under the withering microscope of government watchdogs, tech giants including Amazon, Facebook and Google have funded a bevy of political groups that have helped push positive polling and engaged in other fingerprint-free tactics designed to deter regulators who are seeking to break up or penalize the industry. The approach reflects the growing threats they now face from the Justice Department and the country’s top attorneys general, who have been investigating them on antitrust grounds. From a report: The Connected Commerce Council, for example, is a Washington-based nonprofit that bills itself as a voice for small businesses. But it counts Amazon, Facebook and Google as “partners,” and in recent months the group known as 3C has put its muscle to work arguing that Silicon Valley giants do not threaten competition, stifle smaller rivals and harm consumers in the process. Espinoza, a bootmaker by profession, said he was approached by 3C last year after he participated in a Google seminar meant to help small businesses better use digital tools. The advocacy group then wrote the opinion piece largely on his behalf, which appeared online just days after state attorneys general announced their antitrust probe of the company. The opinion piece did not indicate that 3C largely penned it. Espinoza said he still supported Google, whose technology, including its ad tools now under government investigation, have helped his company reach new customers across the country. But he also said he didn’t know about Google’s relationship with 3C, a group of which he is a member, before being contacted by The Post this week.

Jake Ward, the president of 3C, said his organization represents thousands of small businesses, not Silicon Valley’s largest players. The organization often seeks to encourage corporate founders to share their views publicly, he added. “It is our responsibility, on behalf of our small business members, to protect the existing model and promote the market, which is working exceedingly well” Ward said, later adding: “We are not, and will not work for, Big Tech.” Amazon and Facebook declined to comment. Julie Tarallo McAlister, a spokeswoman for Google, said in a statement that the company supports “a range of organizations like the Connected Commerce Council that are working to help small businesses grow and prosper online.” Silicon Valley tech giants — and companies across a range of industries — often back a wide array of advocacy groups to boost their political fortunes. They aren’t required to disclose how much they spend on these organizations and exactly how involved they are in their day-to-day decisions, but ethics watchdogs say their participation alone is important.