‘House of Cards’ Isn’t the Only Way Netflix Flexes Its Presence on the Hill

A sign is posted in front of the Netflix headquarters on January 22, 2014 in Los Gatos, California. 
National Journal
Elahe Izad
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Elahe Izad
Feb. 19, 2014, 6:01 a.m.

House of Cards is not the only way Net­flix flexed its pres­ence on Cap­it­ol Hill in 2013. It’s also us­ing money.

The rent­al and stream­ing com­pany rap­idly built up its lob­by­ing ef­forts in 2013. Just four years ago, the com­pany spent $20,000 on lob­by­ing. Last year, it dropped $1.2 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to data from the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics. It’s still ranked well be­low many oth­er com­puter and In­ter­net com­pan­ies on lob­by­ing dol­lars, though.

Net­flix is mak­ing money for some law­makers, too. As the Cen­ter for Pub­lic In­teg­rity points out, a hand­ful of mem­bers on the Hill have money in­ves­ted in the com­pany. Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Pat Roberts of Kan­sas owned between $16,002 and $65,000 in com­pany stock, while Demo­crat­ic Sen. Cory Book­er of New Jer­sey owned between $15,001 and $50,000.

The com­pany’s lob­by­ing has fo­cused on net neut­ral­ity, which would keep In­ter­net pro­viders from giv­ing pref­er­en­tial treat­ment or fin­ing sites based on how much band­width they use. Net­flix has a lot to lose or gain in the policy de­bate. At peak times, Net­flix ac­counts for roughly one-third of North Amer­ica band­width.

A Janu­ary fed­er­al-court rul­ing has left the status of net-neut­ral­ity rules in limbo. The White House, for its part, re­af­firmed its sup­port of net neut­ral­ity in re­sponse this week to a white­house.gov pe­ti­tion. And newly pro­posed le­gis­la­tion in Con­gress would tem­por­ar­ily keep the rules in place.

Newly pro­posed bills means a lob­by­ing bon­anza, right? Well, it’s un­clear which tech com­pan­ies will ac­tu­ally throw their weight be­hind the le­gis­la­tion this time around. Google, which has be­come an In­ter­net pro­vider in its own right, isn’t a lock to put its massive sup­port be­hind the latest neut­ral­ity ef­forts. But Net­flix, with all the cash it dropped in 2013, could po­s­i­tion it­self as a ma­jor power play­er.

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