White House visitor logs show Silicon Valley executives regularly visit the West Wing
Big Tech executives have maintained a close relationship with the White House, visiting 1600 Pennsylvania Ave with such regularity that it could explain President Biden’s lackluster push for antitrust legislation, experts say.
An analysis of White House visitor records found that between July 2021 and September 2022, Big Tech’s top executives visited at least 38 times, averaging about 2.5 meetings per month.
Apple CEO Tim Cook visited the White House five times during the 15-month sampling, and Apple sent high-level representatives 16 times in total. Google and its parent company Alphabet sent CEO Sundar Pichai and other senior executives nine times, Facebook and parent company Meta visited seven times.
“The Biden Administration has essentially given Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon a staff badge,” a former Republican House law clerk told DailyMail.com. “Instead of taking on Big Tech, they have allowed Big Tech to infiltrate the White House whenever they please.”
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, and Lisa Jackson, Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, arrive at the White House for a state dinner in December.
On the campaign trail, Biden said he wanted to break up Big Tech’s monopolies and end Section 230. But Congress 2021-2022 came and went and Big Tech’s legislation remained in limbo.
While it’s normal for the White House to meet with business leaders, the frequency of such visits raises the question of what kind of closed-door promises were made, experts say.
“The White House did very little to push Congress to move forward on technology antitrust legislation, in 2021 and 2022,” a former Democratic congressional adviser told DailyMail.com.
“They had all those meetings with Big Tech executives, but the real question is, how successful were those executives in lobbying privately to get the White House to not escalate that fight?”
“The idea that this revolving door of lobbyists and tech executives could have access to officials who are supposedly working to rein in Big Tech who are supposedly going after some of the most egregious behavior is really problematic,” another former Democratic staffer on Capitol Hill told DailyMail.com.
The latest congressional supporters criticized the White House for failing to use Democratic control of the White House and both houses of Congress to prioritize legislation to take on Big Tech.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna and Google CEO Sundar Pichai listen as US President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting on cybersecurity.
Big Tech executives have maintained a very close relationship with the White House, visiting 1600 Pennsylvania Ave with such regularity that it could explain President Biden’s lackluster push for antitrust legislation, experts say.
They failed to push through the American Online Choice and Innovation Act and the Open Marketplaces for Applications Act, both of which would have prevented tech companies from self-promoting their own products and thwarting competitors.
“Clearly there are some gatekeepers in the White House in the administration, who are preventing Biden’s technology priorities from moving forward,” the staffer said.
“Every time Big Tech freaks out, they walk into the White House, they meet their friendly officer, and that guardian tells them not to worry about it.”
Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. said in a statement about its Children’s Online Safety Act, which set new barriers for sites likely to attract child traffic, was removed from the fiscal 2023 spending bill due to industry lobbying.
The United States Data Protection and Privacy Act passed overwhelmingly by the Committee on Energy and Commerce 53-2 in the last Congress, but never came to a vote on the floor.
The mandatory spending bill for fiscal year 2023 included a bill that will raise money for antitrust agencies by raising merger filing fees and banning TikTok on government phones.
The source said the Biden administration gave antitrust advocates high hopes by bringing net neutrality advocate Tim Wu to the White House as an adviser and Big Tech haters Lina Khan to chair the Federal Trade Commission and Jonathan Cantor to lead the anti-trust split Department of Justice.
“That was it in early 2021. And then, you know, it didn’t seem like they had the same level of commitment to the legislation.”
The White House declined to comment on the charges.
Biden waited until January of this year to make one of his most direct calls yet in an opinion piece he wrote directing Congress to pass legislation to control technology platforms.
He first called for privacy protections that limit data collection and ban advertising directed at children and called for reform of Section 230, which grants social media platforms immunity for what users post on their sites, while preserving their ability to moderate content.
Referencing a line he made in both last year’s and this year’s State of the Union addresses, Biden said: “We must hold social media companies accountable for the experiment they are conducting on our children for the purposes of profit”.
“Ban advertising directed at children and place stricter limits on the personal data companies collect about all of us,” Biden said in his State of the Union 2023 speech Tuesday night.
“The idea that he’s saying all this during the State of the Union address and he’s going to go back and talk about the dangers of big tech while officials in his own White House allow technology like big tech companies to have open door access with the same effectiveness is pretty egregious,’ said the former Democratic congressional aide.
Calling for “fairer rules of the road,” Biden winked at legislation that would ban Big Tech from self-promoting their own products.
“When technology platforms get big enough, many find ways to promote their own products while excluding or hurting competitors, or charging competitors a fortune to sell on their platform,” he wrote in his opinion piece.
But Biden and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill are at odds over how best to address Big Tech’s monopolistic tendencies.
House Republicans, recently in the majority, are prioritizing censorship and anti-conservative bias. They have rejected legislation that prevents tech platforms from self-promoting their own products.
Both parties want to reform Section 230, but for different reasons. Democrats want to address the spread of misinformation about things like the election and covid-19, Republicans want to make sure social media companies don’t censor posts that might involve things like vaccines or voter skepticism.
“We need big tech companies to take responsibility for the content they put out and the algorithms they use,” Biden wrote in the Journal. “That’s why I’ve long said we must fundamentally reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects technology companies from legal liability for content posted on their sites.”
President Kevin McCarthy’s office responded that Biden was not addressing the real problem.
“House Republicans will stand up to abuse from Big Tech because the truth should not be censored,” McCarthy’s deputy spokesman Chad Gilmartin said in a statement. ‘Americans should not be blocked or banned for sharing a link to a news article. But that’s exactly what Big Tech has done that Biden wants to ignore.”
On December 14, the incoming Chairman of the Judiciary, Rep. Jim Jordan, wrote to five of the largest tech companies demanding they turn over correspondence between their companies and Biden administration officials.
“While the full extent of Big Tech’s collusion with the Biden administration is unknown, there are prominent examples and strong indications of censorship by Big Tech following directives or pressure from executive branch entities,” Jordan wrote. “Because of Big Tech’s broad reach, it can serve as a powerful and effective partisan arm of the ‘wake speech police.'”
But Jordan has opposed other antitrust reforms, including raising the fees technology companies pay when they file a merger with the federal government to raise money for the antitrust arm of the Federal Trade Commission.
So far, McCarthy has also not prioritized antitrust legislation targeting Big Tech.
In his Republican “Engage America” agenda released ahead of the midterm elections, McCarthy vowed to “stand up to Big Tech and promote free speech” by repealing Section 230 and strengthening antitrust enforcement.
But he opposed a pair of bipartisan bills that would break up tech monopolies like Apple and Amazon and end their practices of personal preference. The top Apple and Amazon defendant in Washington, Jeff Miller, is a close ally and personal friend of McCarthy’s.