How Big Tech seeks to influence the Biden administration

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Stealth initiative pushes to steer the incoming Democratic government.

The powerful denizens of Silicon Valley are working behind the scenes to secure senior roles for their allies in low-profile but key areas of president-elect Joe Biden’s administration, according to Reuters.

The stealth campaign is taking place in the face of growing pushback against Big Tech from regulators and progressive watchdog groups.

Executives and employees at tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft Corp are jockeying to place candidates in senior roles at government agencies. This is according to Reuters, who claim to have this information from four sources with knowledge of the matter.

Looking to influence future policy

The moves are part of an effort by many large tech company officials to influence future policymaking. So has a group of researchers, lawyers and consultants tracking the transition or working with the team expressed to Reuters.

“In 2020, appointing the CEO or top executives of a tech company directly in to your cabinet is bad optics and bad politics,” said Max Moran, a researcher with the Revolving Door Project.

Related: U.S. antitrust report hints on break-up of Big Tech Firms

Betting that the rule of “personnel is policy” still holds true

Nonetheless, Google’s former Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, a massive Democratic Party donor, has been making personnel recommendations for appointments to the Department of Defense. He is doing this even as Google tries to pursue military contracts and defense work, according to three Reuters sources.

Similarly, two Amazon officials have landed spots on the president-elect’s agency review teams for the State Department and the Office of Management and Budget.

Another ally for some large tech companies is Biden’s pick for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who has ties with both Amazon and Google, according to four sources.

Pushback from watchdog groups?

Activist groups are allying to advocate against the influence of Big Tech. Alex Harman, who oversees competition policy for Public Citizen, an advocacy group which is part of the coalition, said he has been in meetings with Biden’s agency review teams with a clear goal: making sure such hires are not made by the administration.

Biden’s teams have been listening to their concerns, but it’s not much of a dialogue, he said. “They are not telling us what they are thinking, they are just asking us what our priorities are.”

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