Media and pundits like to point out the increasing parallels between Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Google, the Web application superpower that long ago passed the desktop software giant in online user engagement.
Now Google has also surpassed Microsoft in another metric: spending to lobby the federal government for its various Web-related interests and concerns.
Google spent $9.7 million on federal lobbying in 2011, nearly double the $5.2 million the search engine company spent in 2010 and easily trumping the $7.3 million Microsoft shelled out for government shilling last year.
For quarters 1 through 4, Google's lobbying spend totaled $1.48 million, $2.06 million, $2.38 million and $3.76 million, respectively, according to the U.S. Senate Office of Public Records' lobbying database.
Google did not comment on its lobbying spent as of this writing. However, the company explained in its filing that it lobbied for issues such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) regulation of online advertising, Do Not Track Act, cyber-security, cloud computing and consumer privacy, among other issues.
To be sure, the SOPA concerns became increasingly salient in 2012 after Google, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook and dozens of other Internet companies stood up to Congress and Hollywood to protest what they viewed as unreasonable regulations against their Websites for fighting pirated content.
SOPA and its Protect IP Act cousin, PIPA, are on the ropes for now, awaiting revitalization in Congress. Yet Google's 2011 spending on SOPA and other issues look disingenuous to some critics who believe the company is simply trying to pay its way out of government regulation.
Consumer Watchdog is one such organization that took umbrage to Google's lobbying spend, which is up 88 percent from 2010. The consumer advocate said Google has abandoned its "Don't Be Evil" roots by buying into "Washington's corrupt "cash and carry" political system.
"Obviously Google executives have no qualms about spending lots of money to get their way," wrote John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project, in a statement. "They used to claim their efforts were 'educational,' but this is just spending however much it takes to buy whatever they want."
Google is weathering antitrust scrutiny into its search practices both from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission abroad.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt testified to the purity of Google's search results and business intentions before the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee on Capitol Hill in September.
There Schmidt denied an accusation from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, that Google "cooked" search results to favor its own Web services over those of Yelp, Expedia and others.
Google isn't the only Silicon Valley company boosting its political payments. Facebook's lobbying spend topped $1.4 million last year, roughly four times the $351,390 it spent in 2010.
These companies are clearly playing the cash and carry game on Capitol Hill, but it's pretty much the cost of doing business in this capitalist country.