Apple Doesn't Lobby Much And That's Fine

A blog about business and economics.
May 29 2012 2:29 PM

Apple Doesn't Lobby Much And That's Fine

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 24: A pedestrian walks by an Apple Store on April 24, 2012 in San Francisco, California.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

David Saleh Rauf and Jonathan Allen note that DC gets antsy when America's biggest company doesn't play in the Beltway:

Apple is taking a bruising in Washington, and insiders say there’s a reason: It’s the one place in the world where the company hasn’t built its brand.
In the first three months of this year, Google and Microsoft spent a little more than $7 million on lobbying and related federal activities combined. Apple spent $500,000 — even less than it spent the year before.
The company’s attitude toward D.C. — described by critics as “don’t bother us” — has left it without many inside-the-Beltway friends. And that means Apple is mostly on its own when the Justice Department goes after it on e-books, when members of Congress attack it over its overseas tax avoidance or when an alphabet soup of regulators examine its business practices.
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There are a lot of intimations in the piece that this is a big problem for Apple, which "could have learned a lesson from Wal-Mart and Microsoft, corporate giants who established major Washington operations only after the government came gunning for them." But I don't quite see it. No lobbyist is going to save you if you get caught orchestrating a cartel with an explicit goal of raising industry-wide prices. The key thing Apple actually wants on taxes is "repatriation holiday" that everyone and his brother (probably including some trade associations Apple belongs to) is already lobbying for. And Apple is just fundamentally not operating in the highly regulated sectors of the economy. If you're in the health care, transportation, energy, financial services, education, or telecommuncations industries (which, to be clear, a very large number of people are) then you need to care a lot about what Congress says and does. If you're not, then you don't. If Apple had a 90% share of the mobile phone market the way Microsoft did in the PC market, they'd do well to spend lavishly on consultants and lobbyists to help them navigate anti-trust issues but they don't even make the most popular mobile phone platform.

Obviously "insiders" have a vested interest in pretending that Apple is tempting the Wrath of Washington on themselves but I don't see the evidence.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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