Social Media MarketingBig tech’s critics flocking again to Oracle’s home on the Hill

Big tech’s critics flocking again to Oracle’s home on the Hill

And unlike other technology companies that dominate industry heavyweights, Oracle has a major piece of real estate on the cusp of Congress.

“It’s a beautiful space,” said Ken Gluck, a senior member of the Oracle lobby, explaining the house’s popularity among lawmakers and industry insiders about the technology the company aims to attract. He added, “Do I think it’s effective? Surely it’s effective.”

The unnamed four-story, four-bedroom Oracle townhouse, with only the American flag hanging above the front porch, although its existence is no secret — as evidenced by its numerous appearances in Instagram photos and Facebook posts. Its legal owner, an LLC managed by a senior vice president of Oracle, purchased the home for $1.785 million in January 2012, according to DC property records. (The district’s tax assessments now put its value at $2.8 million.)

Like many other businesses and interest groups with homes on the hill, Oracle uses the space to host its own events and rent to legislators and organizations such as charitable groups — at cheaper rates than a hotel or restaurant might charge.

Its location is perfect for getting Congress’s ear: right across a park from the house’s office buildings, one block from Hangout Capitol Hill Tortilla Coast, and a short walk from the National Democratic and Republican headquarters. It is steadily returning to full operation after all live action was paused during the pandemic, a months-long period during which the cottage underwent renovations.

“It reinforces our mark. It gives us the vision,” Gluck said, standing in the hallway of the blinding white house.

The building contains attractive amenities for busy legislators and congressional staff: a high-ceilinged conference room, a multi-use open space for fundraising events complete with TV screens, a kitchen with full amenities and a rooftop deck for summer. Not to mention, it has a wine cooler stocked, although Glueck said the cottage doesn’t host events after 10 p.m. to avoid any boisterous celebration.

Oracle also uses its home for more informal meetings between lobbyists and congressional staff. (“We have an espresso maker,” Glueck noted.) And Oracle executives can stay in bedrooms when they’re in town.

Oracle has earned a reputation for its belligerent rivalries with Amazon, its rival in the fight for a $10 billion Pentagon cloud contract, and Google, with whom it has fought a decade-long copyright dispute that has reached the Supreme Court. Last year, Oracle effectively separated itself from Silicon Valley and moved its headquarters from a California tech hub to a new home in Texas, in a move that awarded major economic bragging rights to Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

Besides antitrust, Oracle is lobbying on issues related to copyright, data centers, IT modernization, immigration reform, supply chain and more, according to the lobbying disclosure files.

The company has also forged close ties with the Republican Party, especially after Oracle co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison has been distinguished as one of former President Donald Trump’s most influential supporters. (Ellison has been a major donor to the Republican Party for years.) However, Gluck said, he strives to host fundraisers in the country house of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.

Banks, for example, has held two Townhouse fundraisers in recent months for the House Conservative Fund, the political arm of the Republican Study Committee, according to an invitation obtained by Politico. (This was though The Oracle PAC in January pledged Not support any lawmaker who, like Banks, voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory.) Seven GOP members of Congress who were listed as fundraising attendees in event-promoting emails have received donations from Oracle in recent years . Two raised their own fundraisers in space.

But the country house has also attracted major Democrats pushing for tighter regulations for big tech companies. Cecline, who chairs the House Antitrust Subcommittee, held a home fundraiser in late July, according to another invitation obtained by Politico.

Lawmakers have two options for hosting events at the cottage: They can either pay Oracle’s LLC for the space, which costs between $140 and $350 an hour on average, or Oracle can write off the use of the home as an in-kind donation to a candidate. While the banks chose the first and none of the Oracle executives attended his fundraising drive, Cecilline chose his fundraising account as an Oracle donation. Oracle reported a $140 in-kind donation to Cicilline at the end of its July fundraiser.

The Cicilline Fundraising Association, which included House Appropriation Chair Rosa DeLoro (D-Conn.) as a special guest, requested $2,500 from PACs and $1,000 from individuals to be considered Cicilline’s “patrons.” Lower-tier “supporters” paid $1,000 in PACs or $500 from individuals. Cislin has pledged to accept money from major tech companies — Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook — since it began investigating them in 2019.

Gluck said an Oracle executive also attended the fundraising event. Cecline’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Taken together, the financial backing underscores the fact that deep corporate interests are on both sides of the battle in Washington for control of Silicon Valley’s power.

Complaints about the way dominant tech companies exercise their power are the common denominator among many of the lawmakers who have hosted the country house fundraiser.

Banks, who was suspended from Twitter last month for making comments against transgender people, has spoken of his belief that major tech companies can “wipe conservative voices off the map.” Last week, he signed as co-sponsor of one of the state’s antitrust tech bills, HR 3460 (117), the State Antitrust Law Enforcement Place Act.

In recent months, Oracle has offered its event space as an in-kind donation to Representative Kelly Armstrong (RN.D.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who has introduced legislation aimed at holding big tech companies to account and her representative. Angie Craig (Democrat from Minnesota), who spoke openly about her belief that social media platforms need to suppress hate speech.

Other members who have raised funds with Oracle support this year in the space include Representative Haley Stevens (D-Michigan), the chair of the House Science Committee Committee on Research and Technology, and Representative Kurt Schrader (D-Mitchell), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. In the House of Representatives, which has jurisdiction over technical issues.

Glueck said that Oracle selects the members it hosts for fundraising in the US Townhouses, they mostly choose members who sit on committees that Oracle is interested in or who hail from areas where Oracle has a presence.

It’s not free for everyone,” Gluck said. “Choose a member I’ve never heard of, we won’t. It reflects our general philosophy of giving a PAC, which focuses on the places where we have facilities, the committees we care about, and the members we care about.”

Oracle is a polarizing company in Washington, where its critics have long argued that the software giant is investing more money in lobbyists and lawsuits than in improving its products. A famous satirical chart charting the organizational structure of Oracle – a huge legal department and few engineers.

“Oracle competes in Washington more than it does in the commercial market,” said Brian Peters, a longtime tech lobbyist who rented the house to collect donations from clients. He said that many of his clients over the years have been on the “other side” of Oracle in organizational battles.

“Their use of a country house is a smart strategic decision that goes along with that approach, which is to compete in Washington and outsmart their competitors here,” he said.

Oracle, which ranks 38th by metrics as one of the world’s most valuable companies, still spends less in Washington than the tech giants in the top six. Oracle spent $9.5 million on lobbyists in 2020, compared to $19.68 million for Facebook, $18.72 million for Amazon, and Google’s $8.85 million.

But none of the other big tech companies have a country house on Capitol Hill.

The Consumer Technology Association, a large technology trade group, owns a country house called the House of Innovation, but it doesn’t promote any company’s agenda on its own. Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft all have offices in the capital near Chinatown or Union Station, within walking distance of the Senate, which they often take advantage of to host technology-related events and showcase their new products — but none as close to Congress as Oracle’s Nest. , come with the burden of corporate branding. Oracle has an office in the capital as well, although it is far away.

Glueck said he went to the offices of Microsoft, Google and Facebook. “They are all amazingly beautiful but they are not a short walk away,” Gluck said.

Neither is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s home-turned museum in the capital’s Kalorama neighborhood, nor the massive new headquarters his company is building across the river in Pentagon City.

Peters shook the oracle’s home address through memory, underscoring how important it was to DC policy insiders. “There are only too many cottages out there, so at some point it starts to look very zero sum,” Peters said. “The industries either work together or they don’t. And when they don’t, which is the case with the tech industry, you can see who is playing in order to keep it.”

Other than the tech industry, Oracle’s Townhouse is just one of many corporate-owned homes and other big players near the Capitol. It overlooks UPS’s homestead and is near Amway House, the headquarters of multi-level marketing giant DC, as well as the townhouse of the Allied Pilots Association, the largest independent pilots association in the United States.

“The only people — especially these days — who can own homes on Capitol Hill are the big stakeholders,” said Meredith McGee, an expert on lobbying and campaign finance. For companies that have the resources to play at this level, “You can hire high-priced talent, you can support trade associations and you can have a spot in Hill that makes access so much easier. It’s a trifecta.”

“The point is convenience and accessibility,” she added.

No Wexler, a former spokesperson for Facebook, Google and Twitter, said Oracle’s efforts are succeeding in making friends on Hill, even if it doesn’t have much in the tech industry.

“Oracle is a mature company and its lobbying strategy is more traditional — perhaps closer to Microsoft, AT&T, or Comcast than Google or Facebook,” said Wexler, who said he has attended events over the years at the cottage. “It’s a cultural difference.”

“There are some people in Silicon Valley who still think pressure is a dirty word and see their Washington offices as a waste of money,” Wexler said. “Oracle actually sees the importance of that, and they want their lobbyists to have the resources to go.”

Gluck said he thought the cottage was a good investment for the company. He said it pays for itself, and doesn’t require much maintenance.

“This turns out to be very interesting after Covid,” Gluck said. “It’s a much easier place and less staff friction – and it’s literally across the street.”


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