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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

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FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

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A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

3 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 4 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."