When it comes to formulating government policies, Silicon Valley's most powerful tech executives always have a seat at the table – literally, as was the case during the White House tech summits we've seen happen this year. They also make sure their collective voice is heard through lobbying the House, Senate, White House and federal agencies.

And 2017 is proving to be a big year for lobbying.

From January through June, $103.7 million was spent on lobbying by 291 organizations belonging to or representing the Internet and electronics manufacturing and equipment industry, according to OpenSecrets. The top three spenders – Alphabet Inc. (GOOG), Facebook Inc. (FB) and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) – accounted for 60 percent of the total amount spent by all Internet companies and 20 percent of the amount spent by the industry as a whole.

Here's who spent the most on lobbying Washington in the first half of this year:

Although Apple (AAPL) spent a total of $4.6 million last year, it has already spent $3.6 million in the first half of this year. And Alphabet, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Oracle (ORCL), Facebook, Qualcomm (QCOM), IBM (IBM) and Salesforce (CRM) have already spent 60 percent of last year's cost.

It couldn't come at a more crucial time for tech.

Public Enemy

At the same time that the current administration plans to take away things tech holds dear like net neutrality, visas and internet privacy, the industry is rapidly losing the perception game. As Buzzfeed cautioned, Big Tech now has powerful people on both ends of the political spectrum thinking it needs reining in.

While the leaders in the industry were once celebrated as noble and forward-thinking powerhouses, experts now worry tech giants are monopolies unconscionably profiting as they harm everything from the the arts to small businesses, human relationships and democracy. The New Yorker's August 28, 2017, issue included a story titled "Who Owns the Internet? – What Big Tech’s monopoly powers mean for our culture." NPR's popular Planet Money asked, "Google Is Big. Is That Bad?" Celebrated journalist Franklin Foer and scholar John Taplin have new books out asking the same questions. Politico published a profile of writer Barry Lynn whose team was ousted from a think tank funded by Google after it called for more antitrust regulation.

And the threats could keep coming. Variety reports that Peter Thiel, controversial Facebook board member who served as a delegate for Trump during the election, is up for a top intelligence advisory post. A source said Thiel is very concerned about Amazon and Google since he feels they have become "New Age global fascists in terms of how they’re controlling the media, how they’re controlling information flows to the public, even how they’re purging people from think tanks." (See also: Peter Thiel Could Spell Trouble for Google, Amazon: Report)

Alphabet Inc.

As the biggest spender on lobbying, Google's reach has extended to every manner of policy decision. This year, Alphabet has lobbied on patent reform, data privacy and government surveillance, Trump's executive orders banning entry of people from certain countries, cybersecurity, corporate tax reform, the H-1B temporary worker visa, issues related to human trafficking etc. The company even pushed for the government to maintain good relations with Cuba. "Connecting Cuba will require an entire ecosystem of players...It will also require the U.S. maintaining a policy that allows telecommunications firms work in Cuba," said Brett Perlmutter, head of strategy and operations for Google Cuba at a conference in June.

Pervasive in Google's lobbying filings are mentions of competition and antitrust issues. Before the European Commission slapped Google with a record-breaking fine in June, the company's lobbyists were reportedly busy asking U.S. lawmakers to sign a a letter criticizing EU antitrust regulation. Even at home, the company has faced increasing calls for it to be regulated because of the impact it has on the flow of information. Former chief strategist Steve Bannon reportedly wanted Google to be treated as a public utility. Yelp has written a letter to the FTC accusing Google of scraping images from its website and violating an agreement signed in 2012. The newspaper industry has also asked Congress for permission to band together and take on Google collectively. (See also: Google Slapped With $2.7 Billion EU Antitrust Fine)

Google has also led the charge in support of the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387), a bill introduced in January that would require the government to gain a warrant before requesting access to private emails. The bill was passed in the House in February. "The Senate now has a historic opportunity to shepherd this landmark reform toward enactment. While there are disagreements about other aspects of surveillance reform, there is no disagreement that emails and electronic content deserve Fourth Amendment protections," wrote Richard Salgado, Google's Director of Law Enforcement and Information Security. Since 2010, Google has testified before Congress four times in support of this reform.

Reflected in Google's lobbying reports are also the new technologies it is working on. Mentioned are wind and thermal power, autonomous vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and sensor-based health monitoring.

Amazon.com Inc.

Like other tech firms, Amazon has also lobbied in relation to data security and privacy, surveillance, international trade policy, and high-skilled immigration, besides drone-related policies and postal reform. But it should surprise no one that "taxes" gets the most mentions in Amazon's lobbying reports. POTUS has been frequently using social media to criticize the company in this area, sometimes causing the monster stock to falter with his tweets.

This year, Amazon caved and began collecting sales taxes in all states that have them, but this is only on goods sold directly by Amazon. Consumers don't pay taxes when they buy from third-party vendors – which accounts for half of all sales on Amazon – something that has angered brick-and-mortar retailers. Bills that would authorize states to require remote sellers to collect taxes were introduced in the House and Senate in April. Ironically, Amazon supports these proposals and has been spending lobbying dollars to push for them to be passed. Why is this? It's possible Amazon realizes that collecting state sales taxes will make things significantly harder for its smaller online competitors. So contrary to what Trump is saying, Amazon does support Internet taxes.

Amazon has also joined other retailers like Wal-Mart and Target in lobbying against the repeal of the Durbin Amendment which limits how much banks can charge retailers for credit card transactions.

Facebook Inc.

Tech companies have been actively fighting the government on surveillance issues, especially government requests for data. This has been more pronounced since Edward Snowden leaked documents that described the scope of the NSA's activities and suggested firms were co-operating with the government to provide access to user data. "The U.S. government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they're doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst," wrote CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a Facebook post at the time. (See also: Twitter Reveals FBI Requests for Account Data.)

Facebook hasn't backed down since. The company, which was fighting the government on a gag order that bars it from telling users about warrants, mentioned the need to "reform government surveillance programs, including additional substantive and procedural privacy protections and providing more transparency around national security-related orders" in its filings. In September, the government dropped its demand.

Parts of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), are set to expire this year, and companies are lobbying for the law to be reformed if it is to be reauthorized. The Prism surveillance program allows the government to collect messaging data sent from and to a subject overseas that is under surveillance. In May, Facebook, alongwith Google, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and a host of other companies, wrote directly to Congress. The Trump administration has urged Congress to keep the law unchanged.

While Facebook wants to curb government snooping, it is actively fighting at the same time to protect its own access to user information. The company is lobbying against the BROWSER Act, which would require it to allow users to opt-in or opt-out of the use, disclosure or access to sensitive data. What's at stake? Oh, just the company's multi-billion dollar ad business.

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