Technology lobbyists in the USA
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The biggest players
IT industry body Nasscom was the third biggest spender on lobbying on immigration and advocacy in the US in 2019, as per data from research group Opensecret.org. Microsoft topped the list, pouring $7.8 million on lobbying efforts, followed by Cognizant, which spent $1.7 million.
Nasscom spent $510,000, compared to $700,000 in the year before. The top agencies lobbied by Nasscom include the department of commerce, education, department of homeland security, and department of labour. Nasscom spent $270,000 with Republic Consulting, a bipartisan boutique of both Democratic and Republican Consultants. It spent $150,000 with the Lande Group. Immigration trade, education and foreign relations were some of the top issues on its list. An email sent to Nasscom on lobbying expenses and lobbyists did not elicit a response till the time of going to press.
Nasscom’s lobbying spends have risen significantly since 2015. It fluctuated between $40,000 and $150,000 between 2010 and 2014. But the tightening visa environment in the later years of US president Barack Obama and then Donald Trump appears to have compelled India’s IT industry to strengthen lobbying.
Nasscom hired Spencer Abraham, the former Republican senator from Michigan and US energy secretary under former president George Bush, as lobbyist to communicate to the Trump administration about how the $170-billion Indian IT industry has serviced a majority of the Fortune 500 in their transformation programmes. Until some months ago, John Engler, the Michigan governor in the Bush regime, was one of Nasscom’s advisers on public policy. Nasscom had hired Engler to communicate how the US would benefit from a continuation of the current H-1B visa programme.
Microsoft’s $7.8 million spend this year was less than last year’s $9.5 million. It roped in Cornerstone Government Affairs, a bipartisan consulting firm specialising in federal and state government relations, public affairs and strategic communications. One of the key issues that has gathered steam is the Fairness of Highly-Skilled Immigration Act of 2019 that aims to eliminate the percountry cap for employmentbased immigrants.
OpenSecrets.org's database showed Cognizant’s spends went into issues related to immigration, labour, antitrust and workplace, education and foreign relations. It hired retired army colonel Pete Landrum of the BGR Group who specialises in Congressional procedures and process, homeland security policy and foreign affairs among others. It also used the BGR Group and the Washington DC-based consulting firm Hecht, Latham, Spencer & Associates.