Tim Cook says that Apple donates $0 to political candidates and that he refuses to have a PAC because they 'shouldn't exist'

Tim Cook


Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple is the rare corporation that keeps its pocketbook out of political elections by having no formal political action committee (PAC), CEO Tim Cook said on Tuesday, speaking at the Time 100 event.

A PAC is an organization that raises and donates money to candidates' political campaigns. Advertisement

"We do not focus on politics," Cook said. "Apple doesn't have a PAC. Apple is probably the only large company, I would think, or one of the very few that doesn't have a PAC. I refuse to have one because it shouldn't exist, right? This should not. I think the people that should be able to donate are the people that can vote."

Apple's lack of a PAC is verified by Open Secrets, the organization that tracks money in politics. Although people from Apple are credited with donating $2.4 million total to Democrats and Republicans in 2016, and nearly $1.7 million in 2018, these donations came almost entirely from individuals, not from a formal PAC, Open Secrets says.

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In comparison, Google has a PAC that spent $2.2 million, according to OpenSecrets. The money was raised by individuals who work at Google and others. (Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, donated $7,000 to Google's PAC in 2018, for instance). Facebook has a PAC that's donated over $700,00 in 2018.

While Apple doesn't provide a vehicle for itself and its employees to donate virtually limitless amounts of money to political campaigning, that doesn't mean it's not spending cash to exert influence in Washington. Apple does have its share of hired lobbyists, and spends "dark money," too, according to Open Secrets. Dark money is when a company hires an agent that acts as a go-between, Open Secrets explains. Apple's name was tied in 2018 to one such agent called Corporation Trust Center. All told, Open Secrets says Apple directly spent nearly $6.7 million on lobbying in 2018, plus it was affiliated with five other lobbyists, for a bit over another $1 million.Advertisement

This compares to Facebook's over $12 million spent on lobbying in 2018, and Google parent company Alphabet's $21.2 million spent on lobbying in 2018.

Apple's focus in Washington is to weigh in on "issues where we have standing," he said, explaining that they focus on areas that could impact the company and where he feels the company has a valid point of view.

"We focus on policies, not politics," he said "And I recognize that everything, unfortunately these days, tends to break down in that way. But we focus on the policy itself not the politics."Advertisement

Those policies include immigration (including Dreamer legislation, as Apple employs 300+ Dreamers, he said) as well as education, environmental regulation and privacy.

Cook didn't call out a distaste for the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling by name. This ruling essentially created an environment where large sums of dark money can be spent on campaigns by corporations and others.

But he did say that he believes such a system "shouldn't exist," that the US should set limits on donations to political campaigns and that they should be "transparent."Advertisement

Cook has personally donated to politicians on both sides of the aisle, and has hosted fundraisers for former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and for 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

"I never have donated any money to a PAC personally. Every donation I've ever made is public. So it can stand public scrutiny," Cook said. "And I do that for my personal self, not the company. The company donates $0 to political candidates."