Capitol Steps

Google Now an Expert at Lobbying in Washington

April 14, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

Nine years ago, Google had a one-man lobbying office and hated the Washington’s pay-to-play attitude, but quickly found out that if you really wanted to get things done; you had to play-the-game – one way or another.  Since that time, Google has climbed the lobbying ladder to become second, only to General Electric in corporate lobbying expenditures in 2012 and dropped to fifth place in 2013.  Google may still disdain the way things are done in the halls of the Capitol, but in order to protect themselves against the FTC investigation over concerns about Google’s bread-and-butter search engine – the very core of their existence – they had to somehow jump onboard and try to ‘steer the ship’ into the port of their choice.

Google joined forces with George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, VA, right outside of Washington, D.C., and put on a huge conference about internet search competition.  Although a Google initiated and paid for the event, it was billed as an academic conference by GMU’s Law & Economics Center.  They invited all of the major players – Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulators, federal and state prosecutors, Justice Department senior officials and top selected congressional staffers.  On the day of that conference, attendees decided they could find no need to take action against a pending investigation of Google.  The company put on two very similar conferences that also produced similar decisions in favor of Google…why do direct lobbying, when behind the scenes events and maneuvering can get the job done.

Google is not the only company to do this, but they have become an expert at it over a very short period.  Places and researchers need money, so finance a sympathetic research group at the university level, throw some money into those think tanks or non-profit advocacy groups (they sound harmless enough) or fund a few pro-business groups…everybody wants more business and jobs.  The timing is essential – hit them went you need something passed or voted on in your favor and let them do all the work out front while Google funds them from behind the scenes. The Washington Post says:

“(Google) gives money to nearly 140 business trade groups, advocacy organizations and think tanks, according to a Post analysis of voluntary disclosures by the company, which, like many corporations, does not reveal the size of its donations.  That’s double the number of groups Google funded four years ago.”

Google is moving into a new Capitol Hill office – 55,000 square feet – close to the size of the White House, only on the other end of town; but their influence will be felt across the entire nation.  This is big business, especially where our privacy concerns come into play and Google is lobbying hard to make sure that lawmakers are aware of Google’s contributions to the Internet.  Susan Molinari, a Republican former congresswoman from New York who works as Google’s top lobbyist said:

“Technology issues are a big — and growing — part of policy debates in Washington, and it is important for us to be part of that discussion.  We aim to help policymakers understand Google’s business and the work we do to keep the Internet open and spur economic opportunity.  We support associations and third parties across the political spectrum who help us get the word out — even if we don’t agree with them on 100 percent of issues.”

The public is more aware of these issues since the fallout from the NSA scandal and to help squelch the public’s outrage, Google has worked hard to tried to limit government surveillance, not the collection of data by outside companies where Google makes their money. This, in-turn, has made for some strange coalitions with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Heritage Action, Americans for Tax Reform, and the Center of Democracy & Technology – when the NSA gets involved it is considered spying, however, when private firms purchase the information, it is called advertising.

Please let us know on our Google+ Page how you feel about Google and their business of advertising and their influence in Washington…as always we would love to hear from you.

Google Lobbying Money