Apple spent $500K on federal lobbying in Q1 2012 while Google spent $5M

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Though Apple faces scrutiny from the federal government in the form of an antitrust lawsuit, the company has only spent $500,000 on lobbying the U.S. government in the first three months of 2012.

Apple's activity, or lack thereof, in Washington D.C. was highlighted in a profile published on Wednesday by Politico. While the iPhone maker spent just a half-million dollars on lobbying in the first quarter of 2012, rivals Google and Microsoft spent nearly $7 million combined during the same period, according to congressional lobbying disclosure reports.

Apple's relative absence from the lobbying scene in Washington has apparently left the company with few friends. That could present complications with respect to a new Justice Department lawsuit, filed last month, which has accused Apple and a number of book publishers of price fixing and collusion.

Wednesday's report featured comments from Jeff Miller, who was previously a senior aide for 8 years on the Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee. He said he never had a meeting with any lobbyist representing Apple.

"There have been other tech companies who chose not to engage in Washington, and for the most part that strategy did not benefit them," Miller said.

Among technology companies, Google has the largest presence by far, having spent $5 million in the first quarter of 2012 alone. Microsoft was in second with $1.8 million, while Hewlett-Packard finished third with $1.6 million.

Apple's spending doesn't even crack the top 10, as the company finished in 11th place behind ninth-place Facebook, which spent $816,000 during the quarter, and tenth-place Dell, which allocated $620,000 for lobbying.

The $500,000 Apple spent in the first quarter of 2012 is actually down slightly from the same period in 2011, when the company put $560,000 toward federal lobbying. Last year's sum was roughly one-third the amount Google and Microsoft each spent during the same period.

In 2012, the gap has grown even further, with Google spending ten times as much, and Microsoft more than three times as much. Both companies are joined by Facebook by having their own political action committees, while Apple has none. And Google and Microsoft were also noted by Politico to have media operations in Washington, while the famously tight-lipped Apple does not.

While Apple hasn't spent a great deal directly on lobbying, the company does participate in some groups that advocate on its behalf in Washington. For example, last September Apple joined the Digital Due Process coalition, which seeks to reform surveillance laws in the U.S. and secure individuals' rights to privacy with modern Internet technology.

In addition, Apple has joined other companies in pushing for an offshore tax holiday that would allow the company to repatriate funds stored overseas and spend them in the U.S. at a lower tax rate. Other companies in the consortium included Cisco, Duke Energy, Oracle, and Pfizer.