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Texas native Greg Abbot is comfortable with big tech but despises social media

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has considered himself to be “Take position” against Big Tech — but some critics say it’s an awkward look as he struggles to lure Jobs out of Silicon Valley.

The 64-year-old governor, who last month won the GOP nomination for a third term as chairman of the Lone Star State, unveiled a bill last spring that would block social media companies with more than 50 million users from targeting Texans or to censor or ban their content.

Abbott wrote one comment in the Washington Post, made TV appearances and staged a press conference the announcement that he would introduce the legislation and later held a Lively press event to promote it.

Six months later, as insiders widely expected, the bill fizzled out in the Texas Legislature.

And that’s despite Abbot making unusual efforts on behalf of big tech companies looking to expand into Texas — most notably Apple, Google, and Facebook’s parent company Meta.

Last year, when Abbott was working to lure Facebook into building a large data center in Texas, the Tech Transparency Project attempted to obtain Abbott’s communications with Facebook through a Freedom of Information Act request. Abbott asked the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to intervene and block the surveillance group’s request. according to the Texas Tribune.

Abbot and Paxton
Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton are at odds over whether to investigate tech companies.
Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc

Abbott argued the messages contained privileged information, according to the report. The news has yet to be released. Last week, Meta announced it would begin construction of an $800 million, 900,000 square foot data center in Temple, Texas.

“Abbott is very familiar with Facebook,” a source with knowledge told the Post. “The reason he doesn’t want to make the communication public is that it shows embarrassingly close ties to Facebook.”

A spokesman for Abbott did not respond to a request for comment.

Abbott, meanwhile, has “strongly discouraged” Paxton from leading a series of high-profile antitrust investigations in multiple states against tech companies including Apple, Meta, Google and Amazon, according to a source close to the situation.

In February, Paxton sued Facebook, alleging that the company wrongfully took biometric data from users without their consent. Paxton has also targeted Google — he has filed three lawsuits against the company alleging that Google misleads and deceives users. Most recently, he accused Google of tracking users’ locations without permission.

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Gov. Abbott has criticized Big Tech despite trying to bring giant tech companies into the state.
Getty Images

In fact, the couple’s relationship has soured as Paxton’s lawsuits against tech companies have fueled tension, sources say. “Their relationship has taken a turn for the worse,” a source close to the men told The Post. “The tension comes in part from Paxton’s focus on pursuing lawsuits against big tech companies while Abbott seeks to take the same companies to court.

Elsewhere, Apple — which has pledged to build a $1 billion campus outside of Austin — is getting a 65% property tax break for 15 years. And this despite the fact that Texas does not tax income and is therefore heavily dependent on property taxes. More unusual is Abbott’s $25 million gift to Apple from the Texas Enterprise Fund, a state economic development arm controlled by Abbott.

“Greg Abbott is committed to Big Tech,” a GOP strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Post. “He took hundreds of thousands of dollars [in campaign donations] from Apple and Google and gave them over $25 million in tax breaks.”

Two of Abbott’s protégés from his time as Texas Attorney General have become entrenched in technology. David Edmonson, who worked as a paralegal when Abbott was Attorney General for Texas, now heads the Southeast region of TechNet, a big tech advocacy group. Jim Sheer, a former deputy chief executive during Abbott’s tenure as an AG, is now a key lobbyist for Google.

Abbot and Paxton
The relationship between the Texas governor and the attorney general has deteriorated.
Joel Martinez

At the same time, Abbott has brought tech insiders into state government — by appointing a Google executive who runs human resources in Texas to the advisory board of the Jobs and Education for Texas grant program.

“To say you’re fighting big tech while you’re openly courting them … people need to know he’s there,” Jon Schweppe, director of policy and government affairs at the American Principles Project, told The Post. “One wonders how serious he is.”

Abbott has also relied on technology companies to support its campaign. Top Apple lobbyist Marc Rodriguez has donated $20,000 to the governor since 2018. Rodriguez also spent $5,700 to help cover the costs of several fundraisers run by Abbott. Another Apple lobbyist, Jennifer Rodriguez, has donated $7,500 to Abbott since 2020. McGuire Woods, who lobbies on behalf of Apple and Google, has given Abbott $20,000 since 2015.

“If you don’t want people to question your motives, don’t take their money,” Schweppe adds.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/08/texas-greg-abbot-cozies-up-to-big-tech-but-scorns-social-media/ Texas native Greg Abbot is comfortable with big tech but despises social media

DUSTIN JONES

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