Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As tech's giants prepare to face off with antitrust enforcers this summer, they will draw support from an array of predominantly right-leaning defenders ranging from influential former government officials to well-connected think tanks.

The big picture: The Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the states have multiple investigations of monopolistic behavior underway targeting Facebook and Google, with other giants like Amazon and Apple also facing rising scrutiny. Many observers expect a lawsuit against Google to land this summer.

What they're saying: Rather than defending specific companies' practices, tech's allies are broadly urging caution, warning policymakers against enforcement action or legislation that would upend decades of antitrust law.

What's happening: Tech's antitrust allies include think tanks, trade groups and former regulators. They're mostly drawn from the ranks of the old-guard Republican establishment and its libertarian allies rather than the more populist wing of the Trump-era GOP, which has raised loud complaints of censorship by tech platforms.

The ex-officials:

  • Josh Wright — The GOP ex-Federal Trade Commissioner now leads George Mason University's Global Antitrust Institute, which has launched a project on the digital economy. Wright has criticized the antitrust case against Google in academic research, and argued that existing antitrust laws are sufficient to protect competition in the digital marketplace.
  • Maureen Ohlhausen — The former acting chair of the FTC, also a Republican, joined a letter from Wright and others arguing against "radical proposals" to rethink antitrust enforcement. In separate comments to House antitrust investigators, she warned against the consequences of changes such as prohibiting a platform from selling its own products on its website.
  • Tim Muris — The former Republican FTC chairman, who has previously done work for Facebook, wrote a paper (that received funding from Amazon) warning against changes to antitrust doctrine. He argued that history has shown consumers benefited from efficiencies and low prices delivered by large, vertically integrated businesses like the A&P grocery chain despite antitrust concerns. Muris also told House antitrust investigators in his own comments this year that existing law can deal with modern marketplace issues.

The think tanks and third-party organizations:

  • The Koch network — Charles Koch has supported a network of free-market groups that have focused on tech policy issues including antitrust, with Jesse Blumenthal and Neil Chilson, a former FTC chief technologist, leading the charge. "It's not about defending the big companies, but wanting the companies and the government to stick to the principles that foster innovation," Chilson told Axios.
  • International Center for Law & Economics — President and Founder Geoffrey Manne — who in 2010 teamed up with Wright in a paper arguing against building an antitrust case around Google — more recently argued that antitrust is not a "legal Swiss Army knife."
  • Heritage Foundation — Former Trump campaign adviser and economist Stephen Moore, who is on a temporary leave from Heritage, warned against breaking up Big Tech companies in a recent column and in a Fox Business appearance.

Another source of support for the tech companies: The trade groups and business associations that count the major companies as members or partners, including NetChoice and the Connected Commerce Council, which has argued that the large platforms are in fact good for small businesses.

Between the lines: Despite Silicon Valley's liberal reputation, its biggest companies aren't finding a lot of outspoken allies on the left. Many progressive groups have called for greater regulation or antitrust action against the companies, including some calls to break them up.

  • It's typical in antitrust matters for liberals to take aim at big corporations and conservatives to defend them. What's new in this case: Tech also has prominent critics on the right, including the president and the attorney general.

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Update: The Heritage Foundation responded to this story with a statement: "Heritage’s well-documented opposition to government overreach into the affairs of private industry long predates the existence of the tech industry as we know it today. Our long-standing support for the free market and our opposition to overregulation find certain applications in this current debate, but we staked out this ground long ago and are not doing any work on any basis other than established principle."

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Exclusive: How the high-tech economy is expanding

Data: Information Technology Industry Council; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The technology sector increasingly underpins the U.S. economy, with signs of its growth becoming more woven into local economies far outside iconic innovation hubs like Silicon Valley and New York.

Why it matters: A new district-by-district report out today from the Information Technology Industry Council makes the case that an economy infused with high-tech workers, startups and exports is a more resilient one, with higher wages and productivity.

What's new: Drilling into the data by congressional district yields some surprising findings:

  • The average congressional district now has about 400 high-tech startups employing around 3,400 workers.
  • Texas and Florida are home to four times the number of high-tech startups as the average U.S. state.
  • In Alabama, startups make up 16% of high-tech employment — the highest share in the country.
  • In Vermont, high-tech manufacturing exports make up 5.5% of the state economy — the largest share in the country.

"There is demand for skilled STEM workers, there is demand for public R&D funding, and even for high-tech startups in states across the country — not just in states we hear so much about," said ITI President and CEO Jason Oxman. "Companies are looking for opportunities to find good people in new geographies."

Yes, but: Despite shoots of green sprouting up across the country, many districts are still struggling to find a solid foothold. And there's concern that the COVID-19 pandemic will stunt some areas' tech-related growth even more.

  • For example, the Heartland region lags far behind coastal markets when it comes to attracting entrepreneurs and startups, according to a May report from Heartland Forward.
  • This is where skilled workers are key: "Knowledge-intensive young firms have a higher probability of achieving middle-market status where they can generate rapid job gains for their communities," per Heartland Forward.

The ITI data shows a strong correlation at the district level between employment in computer and math occupations and employment in science and engineering occupations — indicating that a density of high-skilled labor makes a region more attractive for skilled workers in other sectors.

  • This can impact wages.
  • In the median congressional district, average annual wages for high-tech workers in the median state were nearly $79,000. That's more than double the median U.S. personal income, which is around $31,000 annually.

There's a clear correlation at the congressional district level between the prevalence of high-tech and STEM workers and federal R&D funding, ITI's data analysis found.

The catch: The decades-long slide in public R&D funding has accelerated since 2009, according to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, which analyzed the numbers last year.

  • As of last summer, the federal government invests about $125 billion per year in R&D on everything from agriculture to manufacturing to energy. But that investment as a share of overall U.S. GDP has continued to decline. Meanwhile, countries including China have increased this spending.

By the numbers: In the last two fiscal years, 250 out of 435 congressional districts got at least $50 million in federal R&D funding.

  • 14 states did not get any public R&D funding.

The bottom line: The tech economy isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition, and regions should build on their strengths.

  • Smaller markets have managed to capture pieces of the innovation infrastructure needed to drive high-tech ecosystems, but many have a long way to go.
  • "It is really important for states and congressional districts to focus on what they're good at and not try to be the next San Francisco," Oxman said.

Tech jobs aren't immune to the coronavirus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It's not just lower-wage service jobs in retail and at restaurants anymore. The effects of the coronavirus are beginning to reach the seemingly impervious tech industry.

By the numbers: New data from the jobs site Indeed shows that tech job postings were down 36% in late July, compared with the same time last year. That's even worse than the overall year-over-over drop in job postings of 21%.

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Nuclear free-for-all: The arms control era may be ending

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki have remained unreplicated for 75 years in part because the U.S. and Soviet Union — after peering over the ledge into nuclear armageddon — began to negotiate.

Why it matters: The arms control era that began after the Cuban Missile Crisis may now be coming to a close. The next phase could be a nuclear free-for-all.