Political lobbying is seen as a way and means of influencing political decisions. The origin of the phrase is believed to be associated with the gathering of the Members of (UK) Parliament and peers in the hallways, of lobbies, of the UK Houses of Parliament before and after debates – where members of the public could meet their representatives. The term first appeared back in 1820 and since then, lobbying has been debated as much as the issues being considered! Political lobbying may be considered as a good thing, as it ensures that all perspectives are considered by the decision making. It may also be considered as a negative thing as it means those businesses or organisations with the deepest pockets have the greatest means of lobbying.
With this in mind, a government database today revealed that in the first quarter of 2015, Google spent $5.5 million lobbying. For all of 2014, Google is ranked as the ninth business, having spent $16.8 million according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Whilst this is a considerable sum, it is significantly less than the top two lobby contributors, the US Chamber of Commerce at $124 million and the National Association of Realtors, $55 million. The first quarter 2015 $5.5 million is the most that the company has spent in a quarter since 2007 and reflects the technology firm’s increasing prominence in Washington as it fights antitrust battles both at home and abroad, as the recent announcement of the European antitrust case concerns shopping search results show. We’ve also seen how the European regulator has started an investigation into how Google uses Android as a means of keeping dominance as consumers spend more and more time using a mobile device. We’ve also seen Google’s rivals asking the US Justice Department to investigate how Android operates in the United States of America.
Where is Google spending this lobbying money? The list of issues for 2015 includes efforts to clamp down on aggressive patent litigation, net neutrality, tax reform, broadband deployment and efforts to allow skilled immigrants to more easily stay in the United States. According to a spokeswoman for the Centre for Responsive Politics, “Google’s big spending in Washington could be meant in part to rally Congress and the White House to come to its defense in the face of the EU’s antitrust case against the company. It needs allies, the more prominent the better – and it also wants to stave off any similar government inquiries stateside.” Clearly, Google has its own agenda, that of ensuring its viewpoints are considered by politicians. And in the context of some of the more significant spenders in the lobbying scene, the sums involved still seem relatively small.