Amazon.com Inc. spent a record amount lobbying California lawmakers in the third quarter, mirroring its recent highest-ever binge on advocacy in Washington, D.C.
Amazon spent $136,660 on state lobbying services between July and September, the highest quarterly figure for the company since it began filing reports with the Secretary of State’s office in 2000.
The new filings show a $20,160 payment to Sally Kay of the company government affairs division plus $116,500 in fees billed by three lobbying firms. One of those firms is Gonzalez, Quintana, Hunter & Cruz, a go-to Sacramento shop for tech companies. The firm’s clients include Facebook Inc., FanDuel Inc. and Dropbox Inc.
Amazon’s California lobbying bill pales in comparison to the record $3.4 million it spent on federal issues in the third quarter. The Seattle-based company, with a beefed-up in-house lobbying team, has tried to forge a political path with lawmakers and regulators in Washington who are increasingly scrutinizing its size and influence. Amazon acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion this summer.
In Sacramento, Amazon’s political concerns reflected efforts to protect the nuts and bolts of its business in a more regulatory friendly state. Records show the company lobbied on a bill, ultimately unsuccessful, to give local government agencies rule-setting authority over drone flights—deliver or otherwise.
Company lobbyists also weighed in on legislative proposals to regulate connected devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa, and to create new permitting requirements for meal delivery services. Amazon’s ready-to-prepare “Meal Kits” went on sale this summer.
Most of Amazon’s work was done behind the scenes. Policy committees’ analyses of bills this year don’t record support or opposition by the company.
Amazon’s third-quarter spending in California is almost three times higher than the amount it spent over the same three months in 2016.
Lyft Inc. also set a company record for state lobbying expenses in the third quarter, with $175,608 in advocacy spending.
Filings show a $46,200 payment to Dewey Square Group’s Sacramento office plus $128,525 in charges from Mercury Public Affairs, KP Public Affairs and Rachelle Chong Strategic Consulting. Chong is a former member of the Public Utilities Commission, the state agency that oversees ride-hailing companies.
Lyft’s reported lobbying interests included bills to allow hail-by-app drivers to accept credit card tips, to allow those drivers to obtain just one county or city business license and to crack down on non-permitted testing of autonomous vehicles. Lyft also lobbied the Department of Motor Vehicles on self-driving car regulations now in their final stages of development, according to the filings. Lyft partnered with Waymo, Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving unit, in May.
Uber Technologies Inc. spent a bit more on lobbying than its chief competitor—$175,769—though the amount is not a company record. The company reported paying former Assemblyman Mike Gatto $30,000. That money, he said, was for legal services provided to Uber by his new firm, Actium LLP, not lobbying. Uber reported a similar $30,000 payment to Jeremiah Hallisey, a San Francisco attorney and Democratic fundraiser. Uber’s lobbying targets were also similar to those of Lyft.
Quarterly lobbying payments by other tech giants—Facebook Inc. ($37,962), Google Inc. ($61,279), Apple Inc. ($27,406)—were largely in line with past spending for similar three-month periods.