Technology companies keep giving us wondrous new tools, many of which give people a chance to get more involved in democracy, from local school policies to national politics.
A number of those companies are increasing their own participation, too, but they're doing it the old-fashioned way: giving millions of dollars to political campaigns and spending hundreds of millions more for lobbying state and federal legislative and executive branches.
No longer able to view government as a pesky annoyance, as they did in the first half of the 1990s, tech companies have embraced politics with the aggressiveness they bring to their own industry. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, computer hardware, software and Internet companies contributed $19.4 million in the 2002 election cycle, ranking eighth among industries.
Those donations jumped from $9.8 million in 1998, the last non-presidential federal election, when the industry ranked 25th. In the presidential election year of 2000, the industry spent $40.8 million, $30.5 million more than it gave in 1996.
Who are the heavyweights? In the computer and Internet sector, Microsoft Corp. has been the biggest contributor since the 1998 cycle, about when the Clinton administration's Justice Department and more than 20 states filed their antitrust suit against the company. In 1996, the software giant gave $245,474, with 54 percent going to Democrats, and it came back in 1998 as the largest tech contributor, giving $1.36 million. Of that total, 64 percent went to Republicans.
News source: Washington Post