Big Tech Doesn’t Care About Your Voting Rights
The tech industry’s new Chamber of Progress diverts attention away from thorny tech policy issues
Two years ago Google fired its chief lobbyist of twelve years, mostly it seems for having been so darn good at his job. Adam Kovacevich was a longtime Joe Lieberman flack and an inveterate astroturf activist: the son of a central California grape grower, he led his first grassroots campaign from his Harvard dorm room, to break the dining hall’s United Farm Worker’s-inspired grape boycott. When he came aboard the Not Yet Evil empire in 2007, Google didn’t even have a dedicated lobbyist, though it was spending all of six figures a year retaining four outside lobbying firms.
Kovacevich centralized operations and turned Google from a lobbying nonentity to a Boeing-esque Beltway juggernaut replete with 100 staffers and its own tax-exempt industrial complex of advocacy groups and think tanks. Correctly anticipating, having flacked through the big antitrust case against Microsoft, that antitrust sticklers would be his biggest antagonists, he built a whole public relations strategy around positioning the company as the consummate facilitator of competition. “Competition is just one click away,” he wrote.
And Obama’s antitrust enforcers bought in. When reality handed the Federal Trade Commission an open-and-shut antitrust case against Google so thorough and bulletproof a Bush era FTC chairman called it “breathtaking”, the agency mysteriously declined to pursue it, despite Google’s status as the most obvious monopoly in the freaking universe and their own executives’ boasts of paying “humongous” sums to mobile phone carriers and Apple to keep it that way. But commissioners instead chose to side with staff economists, who argued the mobile market for search was “too small to pose an antitrust issue.”
But seven years later when Google again returned to the regulatory crosshairs, this time for making an illegal pact with Facebook to fix online ad auctions and coordinate their privacy violations so as to maximize the efficiency with which they quietly conquered the brave new world of surveillance advertising, something changed. Kovacevich was set free, reduced to shilling for a doomed scooter rental service and wondering how it all went wrong.
“Tech had a very long political honeymoon that lasted almost through the end of the Obama era,” Kovacevich told Axios. “The last five to six years have been characterized by a swing in the other direction… Tech is leaving its dirty laundry on the floor, and the next step is marriage counseling. We can set rules both sides can live with, and smartly minimize tech’s excesses while support what people like about tech.”
But the group, of which Kovacevich is the only paid employee, has no definitive tech policy agenda yet; instead it’s focusing on “protecting voting rights for all Americans,” according to Morning Consult:
Kovacevich and his team of volunteer advisers are hoping that avoiding thorny tech policy issues at first in favor of protecting voting rights for all Americans will build momentum with all Democrats. The group’s first policy engagement will push for the passage of H.R. 1 and H.R. 4 in the Senate, even though there’s no clear voting tech angle to the legislation.
And then as if on cue, the very next day the New York Times reported that “activists” were “talking boycotts” of companies that failed to denounce Georgia’s draconian new voting rights laws, which was followed up by an article today on Black corporate leaders pressuring corporations into take a stand against voter suppression.
Kovacevich was clearly thrilled.
But the pitiful spectacle of the self-employed professional monopoly apologist who falls all over himself to wokewash an entire industry of power-mad extortionists whose trillion dollar flagship ringleader just banished him to second tier scooter share obscurity two years ago, offers us an opportunity to address a salient matter: corporations have nothing to do with democracy. Most typically, in fact, corporations embody its very antithesis. Modern corporations owe their employees and consumers virtually no favors they can’t instantaneously retract by simply firing them or raising prices.
Adam Kovacevich knows this, because all the privileges he and the staffers he hired enjoyed as highflying Google executives were unceremoniously and unilaterally swept out from under them in one of those displays of gratuitous creative destruction most Americans grown rather tired of in recent years, hence efforts to institute some democratic privileges and protections to the workplace in the form of those labor unions Big Tech holds in such extreme contempt. He just thinks that by shrewdly linking a soulless consortium of Silicon Valley wealth extractors to the nebulous cause of voting rights, he can restore himself to a position of status and dignity within the big tech influence peddling elite he once dominated. But don’t be fooled.
Corporations loathe democracy, and nothing about it more than the possibility it exclusively holds that someone other than a tiny group of future trillionaires might hold it accountable for anything. And their “stances” on your right to vote are not worth two bits of the terabytes of data they have accumulated on you.