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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Tech companies bracing for increased scrutiny in Washington are leaning on their last friends in town — the libertarians.

Why it matters: Progressive liberals and populist conservatives alike are ramping up their attacks on the tech industry. So the once-beloved darlings of Silicon Valley are scrambling to gain traction on Capitol Hill with the dwindling ranks of Republicans who still believe in laissez-faire, even for the tech industry.

What's happening: Major tech companies have added prominent conservatives from the free-market world to their D.C. rosters in recent months.

  • Jesse Blumenthal is joining Apple after leading technology and innovation at Stand Together, an organization founded by Charles Koch.
  • Billy Easley, a senior policy analyst for the Koch-linked Americans for Prosperity who also worked on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, recently was hired by Reddit.
  • Mattie Duppler, an alum of the National Taxpayers Union and Americans for Tax Reform, joined Amazon last year.
  • Facebook and Google also have relied on veterans of free-market circles. Google hired Max Pappas, a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in 2017, while Facebook tapped former R Street Institute outreach director Lori Moylan the same year.

Yes, but: The tech companies are also eager to hire Democrats as they seek to position themselves for the new administration and congressional majorities.

The big picture: The D.C. breed of libertarian who is against government intervention or regulation is fading fast among those in power in the Republican Party.

  • "I think you're seeing in part with the post-Trump right, a drifting away from the alliance with big business," said Zach Graves, head of public policy for the Lincoln Network, a conservative-leaning group focused on tech.
  • A survey on a "winning message" from the National Republican Senatorial Committee found that 87% of Republicans agreed that Big Tech has too much power over their platforms, and 89% agreed that social media companies should be liable under the same laws as newspapers for false information published on their platforms.

Flashback: The tech industry has a strong libertarian streak in general, with some in Silicon Valley priding themselves on their independent-minded views.

  • In D.C., tech has largely aligned with Democrats over the past decade. But with the tech-lash, free-market types are more natural allies given their opposition to regulation or government intervention.

Between the lines: The number of lawmakers — on either side of the aisle — who believe nothing should be done to regulate tech companies is dwindling, so the companies have their work cut out for them.

  • The lobbying strategy of sharing talking points with like-minded groups, who then author op-eds or blogs for company lobbyists to in turn share with lawmakers and staff as proof of support, isn't effective in this environment.
  • "The approach that tech companies have relied on for years — the justification for internet exceptionalism — is not influencing people on the Hill anymore," said Rachel Bovard, a former Senate aide now with the Conservative Partnership Institute.
  • "What they’ve suggested has been belied by actual events. I think lawmakers are increasingly dubious of what’s being told to them from these groups."

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
2 hours ago - Science

China makes history with successful Mars landing

A model of the Tianwen-1 Mars rover is displayed during an exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

A Chinese lander carrying a rover successfully touched down on Mars for the first time, state media reports.

Why it matters: This is the first time China has landed a spacecraft on another planet, and it launches the nation into an elite club of only a few space agencies to successfully make it to the Martian surface.

3 hours ago - World

UN: 10,000 Palestinians displaced in Gaza as Israel-Hamas fighting escalates

A Palestinian woman walks after she collects her belongings inside her damaged house following an Israeli air in the northern Gaza Strip. Photo: Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The United Nations warned Friday that ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas "has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis," in not only the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, but "the region as a whole."

The big picture: More than 125 Palestinians, including 31 children have been killed in Gaza since fighting began Monday, per the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Eight people, including two children, have been killed in Israel, Reuters reported, citing Israeli authorities.