Texas’ Greg Abbott cozies up to Big Tech but scorns social media

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has solid himself as “taking a stand” in opposition to Massive Tech — however some critics say it’s a clumsy look as he scrambles to lure jobs from Silicon Valley.

The 64-year-old governor — who final month gained the GOP nomination to pursue a 3rd time period helming the Lone Star State — revealed a invoice final spring that will stop social media firms with greater than 50 million customers from censoring or banning Texans or their content material.

Abbott penned an op-ed in The Washington Post, made TV appearances and staged a press conference asserting he would introduce the laws and later held a splashy press event to put it on the market.

Six months later, the invoice fizzled within the Texas Legislature as insiders extensively anticipated it will.

That’s whilst Abbot has gone to uncommon lengths on behalf of main tech firms seeking to increase into Texas — most notably Apple, Google and Fb’s company dad or mum Meta.

Final yr, as Abbott was working to lure Fb to construct an enormous information heart in Texas, the Tech Transparency Mission sought to acquire Abbott’s communications with Fb by way of a Freedom of Info Act request. Abbott requested Texas Legal professional Common Ken Paxton’s workplace to intervene and block the watchdog group’s request, according to the Texas Tribune.

Governor Abbott and Legal professional Common Paxton are at loggerheads over whether or not to analyze tech firms.
Robert Daemmrich Pictures Inc

Abbott argued the messages contained privileged info, in response to the report. The messages have but to be made public. Final week, Meta introduced it will start development of a $800 million, 900,000-square-foot information heart in Temple, Texas.

“Abbott could be very cozy with Fb,” a supply with information advised The Put up. “The explanation he doesn’t need the communications public is that it exhibits embarrassingly shut ties to Fb.” 

A spokesperson for Abbott didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Abbott, in the meantime, has “strongly discouraged” Paxton from main a collection of high-profile, multi-state antitrust investigations into tech firms together with Apple, Meta, Google and Amazon, in response to one supply near the state of affairs.

In February, Paxton sued Fb, alleging the corporate had wrongfully taken customers biometric information with out their consent. Paxton has additionally made Google a goal — he’s launched three fits in opposition to the corporate alleging Google is deceptive and deceiving customers, most lately accusing Google of monitoring customers’ places with out permission.

Governor Abbott has slammed huge tech whilst he sought to carry large tech firms into the state.
Getty Photos

Certainly, the pair’s relationship has soured as Paxton’s fits in opposition to tech firms have brought about friction, sources say. “Their relationship has soured,” a supply near the boys advised The Put up. “The stress partly comes from Paxton’s give attention to pursuing fits in opposition to Massive Tech firms whereas Abbott seeks to courtroom the identical firms.

Elsewhere, Apple — which has dedicated to construct a $1 billion campus outdoors Austin — is receiving a 65% abatement on property taxes for 15 years. That’s even if Texas doesn’t tax revenue and accordingly depends closely on property taxes. Extra uncommon is Abbott’s $25 million present to Apple from the “Texas Enterprise Fund,” a state financial improvement arm that’s managed by Abbott.

“Greg Abbott is beholden to Massive Tech,” a GOP strategist who spoke on the situation of anonymity advised The Put up. “He has taken a whole lot of hundreds of {dollars} [in campaign donations] from Apple and Google and given them over $25 million in tax breaks.”

Two of Abbott’s proteges from his days as Texas lawyer normal have gone on to embed themselves in tech. David Edmonson, who served as a regulation clerk when Abbott was Texas lawyer normal, now run the southeast area of TechNet, a Massive Tech advocacy group. Jim Sheer, a former deputy division head throughout Abbott’s tenure as AG, is now a key lobbyist for Google.

abbott and paxton
The connection between the Texas governor and the lawyer normal has soured.
Joel Martinez

On the identical time, Abbott has introduced tech insiders into state authorities – appointing a Google govt who runs staffing in Texas to the Jobs and Schooling for Texas Grant Program Advisory Board.

“To say you’re combating Massive Tech whereas overtly courting them … folks must know that’s the place he’s,” Jon Schweppe, Director of Coverage and Authorities Affairs at American Rules Mission advised The Put up. “It makes you marvel how critical he’s.”

Abbott has additionally relied on tech firms to assist his marketing campaign. High lobbyist at Apple Marc Rodriguez has donated $20,000 to the governor since 2018. Rodriguez additionally spent $5,700 to cowl the bills of a number of fundraisers Abbott held. One other Apple lobbyist, Jennifer Rodriguez, has donated $7,500 to Abbott since 2020. McGuire Woods, which lobbies on behalf of Apple and Google, has given Abbott $20,000 since 2015.

“Should you don’t need folks to query your motives, don’t take their cash,” Schweppe provides.

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