Apple execs and lobbyists — including CEO Tim Cook — visited WH 87 times since Biden took office as antitrust crackdown looms

Tim Cook, President Biden and Apple logo
Tim Cook, President Biden and Apple logo

Apple has launched a major charm offensive in Washington to counter a fresh wave of antitrust heat – and lobbyists and executives including CEO Tim Cook have landed meetings at the White House at least 87 times since President Biden took office, public documents show.

The $3 trillion tech giant has amassed an army of Beltway influence peddlers, lawyers and staffers with ties to the White House and the Justice Department, according to The Post’s review of public documents and interviews with tech policy insiders familiar with the company’s tactics.

Apple executives or company-affiliated lobbyists appear in the White House’s public visitor logs at least 87 times since President Biden took office in 2021 — with Cook personally visiting the White House at least 11 times for listed meetings with least 14 officials since 2021, according to a non-exhaustive review of the disclosures.

That included at least three visits with President Biden, the most recent of which occurred in June 2023. Cook’s White House visits have included attending at least two of the four state dinners Biden has had since taking office — one with France’s Macron and one with India’s Modi.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, left with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Biden in 2023. AP
Apple CEO Tim Cook, left with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Biden in 2023. AP

The sheer number of Cook’s White House calls are staggering — even for a high-profile business executive, according to multiple industry sources.

“Other than [ex-Google CEO] Eric Schmidt, who had significant relationships in the Obama White House and figures like Peter Thiel under Trump, I can’t think of anyone else who is as close to an administration,” said Jeff Hauser, executive director at the Revolving Door Project

The major offensive is just “the tip of the iceberg of what they are spending in order to influence Washington,” according to Hauser – who noted that the true scale of Apple’s influence campaign is nearly impossible to determine.

The White House and the Justice Department declined to comment.

“There is a significant cultural backlash happening against Big Tech right now and Big Tech realizes it and they are fighting a cultural war in response,” Hauser said.

Apple executives or company-affiliated lobbyists appear in the White House’s public visitor logs at least 87 times since President Biden took office in 2021, according to a non-exhaustive review of the disclosures. AP
Apple executives or company-affiliated lobbyists appear in the White House’s public visitor logs at least 87 times since President Biden took office in 2021, according to a non-exhaustive review of the disclosures. AP

The stakes are high for Apple as it faces the prospect of an antitrust crackdown that could force major changes to how it does business across its sprawling empire – from its dominant iPhone business to its lucrative and controversial App Store.

The Justice Department is prepping a sweeping antitrust suit alleging that Apple has used illegal tactics to maintain the dominance of its iPhone. Elsewhere, Apple’s crackdown of the popular “Beeper Mini” messaging app and its ugly Apple Watch patent infringement case have drawn the attention of regulators.

In Congress, Apple has lobbied hard against aggressive bipartisan antitrust legislation such as the Open App Markets Act and the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA) – the latter of which Cook reportedly personally called senators to lobby against in 2022. Both would add new restrictions on how Apple operates the App Store.

When reached for comment, Apple pushed back criticism about its DC dealings, noting that it regularly engages with the government in order to explain its policy positions and advocate for priorities such as user privacy and ease of use.

The company said its outreach is centered on issues that could put user security or information at risk as well as other topics, such as online child safety and semiconductor production.

Apple pointed out that the several of Cook’s visits to the White House were made at the behest of the administration to participate in National Economic Council panels or weigh in on key legislation such as the CHIPS Act.

The Justice Department is prepping a sweeping antitrust suit alleging that Apple has used illegal tactics to maintain the dominance of its iPhone. REUTERS
The Justice Department is prepping a sweeping antitrust suit alleging that Apple has used illegal tactics to maintain the dominance of its iPhone. REUTERS

On the subject of the potential antitrust bills, Apple said it had engaged in constructive dialogue with some lawmakers but still opposed the legislation.

“We remain concerned that this legislation threatens to break this model and undermine the privacy and security protections our users depend on,” Apple said in the statement.

“Governments and international agencies worldwide have explicitly advised against sideloading requirements, which would empower bad actors who want to target users—including children—with malware and scams, and make it easier for data-hungry companies to track users without their consent,” Apple added.

Multiple sources raised concerns about Apple’s ties with the US government following revelations that a proposed Congressional spending bill would gut funding for the DOJ’s antitrust wing – potentially undercutting the department’s ability to pursue cases against Apple and other tech firms.

Apple has been engaged in an antitrust war with “Fortnite” maker Epic Games. REUTERS
Apple has been engaged in an antitrust war with “Fortnite” maker Epic Games. REUTERS

“Apple has a massive war chest for buying friends, and the eve of a major enforcement action is exactly when you’d expect them to call in favors,” said one well-connected Democrat.

“Congress and the White House aren’t subject to freedom of information requests, but it would be pretty revealing to see who was under pressure from Apple and its powerful insider friends to undermine the antitrust division’s budget.”

Indeed, several members of the Biden administration or associates of the president have deep ties to Apple.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco is a former partner at O’Melveny & Myers who did legal work for Apple as recently as 2020, while ex-Biden campaign adviser Cynthia Hogan was Apple’s vice president for public policy and government affairs from 2016 through 2020. White House deputy press secretary and longtime Biden aide Olivia Dalton recently took a communications gig at Apple, Bloomberg reported.

Another key figure is Karen Dunn, a Democrat-linked lawyer at the white-shoe firm Paul Weiss who has represented Apple on several occasions – including its antitrust war with “Fortnite” maker Epic Games.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco is a former partner at O’Melveny & Myers who did legal work for Apple as recently as 2020. REUTERS
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco is a former partner at O’Melveny & Myers who did legal work for Apple as recently as 2020. REUTERS

Dunn reportedly helped to prep Attorney General Merrick Garland for his Senate confirmation hearing in 2021 and teamed with former Biden chief of staff Ron Klain to assist with debate prep for Vice President Kamala Harris in 2020. Dunn was even once reportedly floated as a candidate to serve as boss of the DOJ’s antitrust division – a role that later went to Jonathan Kanter.

Among the employees who traveled to Washington were Timothy Powderly, Apple’s senior director of government affairs; Lisa Jackson, vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives; April Jones, its senior government affairs and policy counsel; and Eddy Cue, a close Cook confidant and senior vice president of services.

“Apple just has too much influence across the Biden administration. It certainly seems like there a lot of people who get face time and a lot of people who do Apple’s bidding behind the scenes,” said a Beltway tech policy insider who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Karen Dunn, a Democrat-linked lawyer at the white-shoe firm Paul Weiss, has represented Apple on several occasions. The Washington Post via Getty Im
Karen Dunn, a Democrat-linked lawyer at the white-shoe firm Paul Weiss, has represented Apple on several occasions. The Washington Post via Getty Im

Meanwhile, Apple spent nearly $9.9 million on federal lobbying efforts in 2023 – the most in a single year on record dating back to 1998, according to disclosures compiled by OpenSecrets. That was up from $9.3 million in 2022 and $6.5 million in 2021.

Overall, Apple’s total spending on federal lobbying efforts amounted to $32.4 million from 2020 through 2023. That marked an increase from $25.9 million from the previous four-year window of 2016 through 2019. The spending, while notable by Apple’s standards, still trailed that of Meta, Amazon and Google.

Antitrust watchdogs said Apple also uses various tactics that don’t show up in its federal lobbying tally — including frequent intervention at the state level to block or water down bills that could hurt its business.

Additionally, Apple provides funding to various policy-focused third-party groups – at least 40 since 2019, according to one insider – such as NetChoice, TechNet and Chamber of Progress, that effectively function as proxies for the company in legal and regulatory disputes.

For example, NetChoice and Chamber of Progress submitted briefs on Apple’s behalf when its high-profile clash with Epic Games reached the Supreme Court.

Antitrust watchdogs said Apple also uses various tactics that don’t show up in its federal lobbying tally AP
Antitrust watchdogs said Apple also uses various tactics that don’t show up in its federal lobbying tally AP

In one common yet difficult-to-track move to wield influence, Apple and other tech giants fund studies and white papers at universities across the country that are later used to support or justify their policy positions, Hauser noted.

High-powered lobbying firms tapped by Apple to head off unwanted antitrust bills include Miller Strategies, which is run by DC operative Jeff Miller and received $680,000 in 2023 alone. As recently as the fourth quarter of 2020, Miller Strategies disclosed that it had helped “educate” members of Congress “regarding the possible reintroduction” of the Open App Markets Act and AICOA.

In one case, Apple hired lobbying firm Covington & Burling, led by Shara Aranof – the ex-chair of the International Trade Commission under President Obama – to unsuccessfully lobby on its behalf in the Apple Watch patent saga. The company paid more than $500,000 for roughly a month’s work, Politico reported.

The iPhone maker also has taken steps to bolster its defenses by hiring people with institutional knowledge of the DOJ’s cash-strapped antitrust division.

Through June 2023, Apple had hired at least 15 former Justice Department staffers across its business. Hires included senior counsels Rachel Flipse, a former trial attorney in the DOJ’s antitrust division, and Scott Murray, a former member of the DOJ antitrust wing’s telecommunications task force.

“These are staff-level folks, but they do have very important knowledge on the way that the DOJ and the FTC approach their enforcement, the inner workings of it, the dynamics of leadership and that kind of thing,” said Andrea Beaty, research director at the Revolving Door Project. “It’s valuable information.”