Oracle met with Senate aides about TikTok data storage after House ban passed

A smartphone with the Tik Tok logo is seen in front of a displayed Oracle logo in this illustration taken, Septemeber 14, 2020.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

Oracle’s top lobbyist in Washington met privately with Senate aides about the company’s data housing agreement with TikTok this spring, after a bill that could effectively ban the social media app in the United States passed the House in mid-March.

Oracle acts as the data center for U.S. TikTok users. The House legislation would require TikTok’s China-based parent company ByteDance to divest the social media app, or face an eventual ban in the United States.

“We had four meetings, primarily to discuss the technical mitigations” of the data storage project, said Oracle EVP Ken Glueck, who described the previously unreported talks to CNBC on Monday.

To set up the meetings, Oracle turned to two lobbying firms: Fierce Government Relations and Polaris Government Relations, according to newly filed disclosure reports.

Glueck led discussions with staffers for the Senate Commerce Committee and the Intelligence Committee, he said. Two of the meetings were in person, and two were over Zoom, he added.

Glueck said Oracle did not lobby for or against the TikTok bill, and only disclosed the meetings on mandatory filings in order to be transparent.

If TikTok is banned, Oracle could face financial headwinds, according to market analysts.

“In a TikTok ban or shut-down scenario, Oracle would lose what is likely its largest OCI [Oracle Cloud Infrastructure] customer. This would be a negative, there is no sugar-coating it,” analysts at UBS said in a research note. The deal between TikTok and Oracle is reportedly worth $1 billion.

The Commerce Committee is chaired by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., while Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. leads the Intelligence Committee.

Though the initial House bill briefly stalled in the Senate, a similar piece of legislation passed the House on Saturday and already has key support in the Senate.

Both Cantwell and Warner have said that it could take up to a year for TikTok to be successfully divested from ByteDance if President Joe Biden signs a ban into law.

News of the meetings came after TikTok’s lobbyists reportedly complained to lawmakers that Oracle hadn’t done enough to lobby against the legislation. TikTok has spent millions on advertising and other lobbying efforts to try to stop the legislation from passing Congress.

Records show that Oracle paid $90,000 to Fierce and $80,000 Polaris in the first three months of the year. They were the only two outside firms Oracle paid this quarter that focused on this issue. The services included providing congressional offices “technical assistance” in regards to the TikTok legislation, according to the disclosures.

The Internal Revenue Service defines this type of assistance as lawmakers turning to industry experts for guidance, especially when a bill is being deliberated in Congress.

Oracle has one of the most formidable in-house lobbying shops in Washington, and it reported spending over $2.4 million since January 1 to influence policy, according to disclosures. This included in-house lobbying on TikTok, alongside a dozen other issues.

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