Watchdog Wants Google’s Head as Google’s Lobbying Spend Jumps 57%

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 11:37 am

    There was a time a couple years ago when we pundits tracked Google’s lobbying spend by year. No longer, because that spend is growing at a fat clip.

    Consumer groups and privacy watchdogs suspicious of Google Creep — its growing size and extension on the Web  — are looking at Google’s moves in Washington, D.C., with the flinty enthusiasm of fire and brimstone preachers.

    To that end, Consumer Watchdog has noted that Google increased its lobbying spending in the first quarter by 57 percent over the first quarter 2009.

    Google paid $1.38 million to sway politicos compared to $880,000 in Q1 2009, according to data from the Senate Office of Public Affairs. Google is on pace to spend $5.6 million on schmoozing the government this year.

    For perspective, note that Google spent $4 million on lobbying in 2009, up from $2.84 million in 2008 and almost three times the $1.52 million it spent in 2007.

    Google’s lobbying spending includes money it spent itself and money paid to outside firms to lobby for the search engine, according to Consumer Watchdog advocate John Simpson, who first reported the data.

    Google last year spent on lobbying for privacy and competition issues related to online advertising, copyright laws and its Google Book Search settlement. Google spent money to lobby on those trends in Q1, too, but added other things to its agenda.

    The company shelled out cash to influence legislators for patent reform; network neutrality, and “legislation intended to prevent U.S. technology companies from cooperating with repressive foreign governments that restrict free speech and violate human rights,” according to the Associated Press.

    Google shuttered its search engine in China after a cyber-attack on its Gmail accounts, vowing to no longer support China’s censorship rules. The move was popular in the U.S. government, which appreciated the company taking a bold stand against a world power.

    Reuters said Google lobbied the usual suspects, including House of Representatives, the Senate, the Commerce Department and the Federal Trade Commission.

    More interesting is that Simpson and his Google hawking agency is expected to do some lobbying of their own.

    They plan to ask the U.S. government to investigate Google for antitrust violations. They will announce this at a press conference in Washington, D.C., April 21.

    This is nothing new, but now the group wants to break up the company. This is untenable. How do you break up a company whose Web services are so tightly coupled together?

    What would you do? Offer search separate from YouTube and Google Apps? I don’t think so. I enjoy the single sign-on to Gmail, Google Docs, et al. I would not support such a break up.

    What about you? Do you want to see Google regulated? Why or why not?

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