Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba lavishing money on US lobbying, Democrat campaigns

"Since the 2014 midterm elections, Alibaba has generally skewed toward the Democratic Party," according to a recent report by the Voice of America (VOA). 

Published: February 18, 2023 2:11pm

Updated: February 19, 2023 11:14pm

In 2020, Foreign Policy published a report describing the many ways in which Chinese tech companies were helping China's Ministry of State Security (MSS) to process stolen data — much of it stolen from U.S. citizens: China has, to date, stolen the data of 80% of Americans

One of the companies mentioned in the extensive report was Alibaba, the e-commerce giant headquartered in the ancient Chinese city of Hangzhou. Answerable ultimately to the Chinese Communist Party, the multinational retail and tech colossus was recently accused of conducting espionage for the CCP by a Belgian minister.

Alibaba isn't just processing stolen data for Beijing; it is also aggressively lobbying in the United States. Last year, representatives from Alibaba spent more than $2.5 million on U.S. lobbying efforts, according to a recent report by OpenSecrets, a research organization tracking money in politics.

"Since the 2014 midterm elections, Alibaba has generally skewed toward the Democratic Party," according to a recent report by the Voice of America (VOA). During the 2020 election, notes VOA, the majority of recipients of Alibaba's political donations, which totaled more than $1.2 million, were Democrats. Last year, the Democratic National Committee alone raked in over $135,000 in donations from individuals associated with the company.

The leading individual recipient of Alibaba campaign cash was a disaffected Republican, former Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who lost her reelection bid last year in a landslide GOP primary defeat to conservative challenger Harriet Hagemen.

In Congress, Alibaba is focusing its lobbying on members associated with trade and technology, according to the VOA, which found that of the 39 issues lobbied on last year, 10 were trade-related, while another eight were related to trademarks and patents. 

One of Alibaba's more influential lobbying firms is Mercury, a "global, high-stakes public strategy firm" with offices worldwide, including three in the U.S. (Austin, D.C. and NYC). The firm has "lobbied the White House repeatedly on behalf of Alibaba on technology policy issues, access to U.S. capital markets, issues related to e-commerce, and small- and medium-sized enterprise export promotion," VOA reported.

Coincidentally or not, Mercury's upper echelon of leadership is packed with individuals with Democratic Party ties. Ashley Bauman, Mercury's senior vice president, previously worked as a communications adviser for the DNC. Greg Drilling, another senior vice president, was once part of Andrew Cuomo's team. Former U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, cochair of the D.C. office, previously served as chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). 

As of the end of last year, 19 of the 30 lobbyists hired by Alibaba had previously worked for the U.S. federal government and Congress according to OpenSecrets. This included four former federal lawmakers.Alibaba is not the only Chinese company lobbying hard in the U.S. 

Chinese multimedia conglomerate Tencent Holdings, one of the most powerful tech companies in the world, has spent over $6 million lobbying the federal government since 2020, according to OpenSecrets. Last year, according to the watchdog, Tencent spent $2.3 million lobbying various agencies, including the Commerce Department, the State Department, the National Security Council, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Executive Office of the President. 

Tencent is the owner of WeChat, the CCP's most beloved of spy tools, according to Bloomberg. This messaging app, currently available for download in the U.S., is used by 19 million Americans. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly warned that the CCP uses WeChat to spy on users and spread propaganda.

Although lobbying, in certain cases, can be beneficial, both Alibaba and Tencent are closely associated with the CCP, and their interests may be inimical to those of the American people.

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