Europe

Big Tech is now ahead of Big Energy in EU lobbying


LobbyFacts, which presents data from EU transparency data in a user-friendly database, found that in 2015 the top reporting companies spent around €90 million between them on lobbying, this figure rose to nearly 120 million euros in 2022, a third leap.

  • Top 10 spending on EU lobbying (Photo: Lobbyfacts.eu)

By comparison, the top 50 NGOs report spending 40% less than the largest companies.

And the top 50 companies seem to have significantly greater access to the European Commission than the top 50 NGOs since December 2014.

These are further indications of what is already widely known: the business sector has a much larger lobby footprint in Brussels than public interest groups. Corporate interests continue to dominate the Brussels lobby scene.

Other trends are also apparent in the lobby data.

Big Tech leads Big Energy at the top of the ranking for the highest European lobbying budget reported by companies, with Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Huawei all in the top ten.

And while in 2015 there were four energy companies in the top 10, in 2022 there are only two left, Shell and Exxon.

Big Energy doesn’t lobby less, but relative to the money Big Tech spends, the energy sector seems less active.

But with the current energy crisis, as well as the Green Deal and REpowerEU packages, fossil fuels dominate the EU agenda and it is very plausible that the top 10 could be different next year.

The revolving door of Big Tech

Analysis of the LobbyFacts archive of European Parliament pass holders (combined with data from other sites such as LinkedIn) reveals that over 70% of Google and Meta lobbyists have previously worked for government bodies at of the EU and the Member States.

From high-level committee staff to MEPs, assistants and interns, the number of those who come through the revolving door of Big Tech is shockingly high. Remarkably, some people held a Big Tech lobby pass just months after leaving the public sector.

Meanwhile, eagle-eyed observers of the Brussels lobby scene may have noticed that there are no more Russian lobbyists in the EU lobby register.

The registry secretariat has “suspended[ed] these interest representatives headquartered in Russia in the framework of the investigations which will be launched in their regard” following the EU sanctions and other measures.

But which Russian lobbies are we talking about?

Only LobbyFacts can show that there were 13 EU lobbies based in Russia at the time of the invasion of Ukraine in February, including Gazprom and Lukoil, and further research will reveal their wider lobbying networks, including lobbying consultancies that have worked for them before. , and even for other repressive regimes around the world.

Whether you want to find out who is lobbying on EU policies, discover the most active lobbies in your country or profile a company in the news, LobbyFacts is an essential tool for investigating lobbying at the EU level .

Self-declared

Of course, LobbyFacts is only as good as the data it collects from the EU lobbyist register. Almost all data in the official register is self-reported by the declarants themselves, and because the register is not legally binding and the penalties are low, the system does not always provide reliable declarations.

This means that there are negligent or downright misleading registrations and that the plausibility checks of the register secretariat are not yet sufficient to deal with them.

LobbyFacts analysis shows that none of the 27 top EU lobbying spenders are likely to have spent €10m or more in the past year. Indeed, Brussels’ biggest lobbyist is unlikely to be who the EU register claims to be – our analysis shows that 36 out of 51 entries are not.

And the new rules for the EU register have created confusion and a potential major loophole for those who wish to keep their lobbying expenses hidden. LobbyFacts reveals that at least 380 trade associations, companies, lobbying firms, consultants and law firms claim to be “non-commercial” and therefore are not required to provide a lobbying budget.

It is ridiculous that the EU registry has different reporting requirements for different types of organizations, which hinders the ability to compare and contrast data. The founders of LobbyFacts, Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl, filed a formal complaint about this.

The EU Lobby Transparency Register is still a long way from providing fully reliable information on lobbying by EU institutions, but LobbyFacts will help you navigate this maze, avoid questionable data and shine the spotlight on the halls of power.

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