Google Lobbies to Keep Political Wolves at Bay

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-02-01 Print this article Print

Google spent $5.2 million in lobbying in 2010, up almost one-third from the $4 million it spent in all of 2009.

Per usual, the company paid to curry support for online advertising regulation, patent reform, cyber-security and online privacy, renewable energy, freedom of expression and censorship, tax reform, free trade, Internet service usage rules, and broadband access.

We the media have become fascinated by what Google spends on lobbying. Google has gotten so big and powerful that it is paying Congress to keep it off its broad shoulders and back. The best defense is a powerful offense. True in football and true for Google here.

Google has gotten large (24,400 employees, with designs to add more than 6,200 this year), unwieldy (people are leaving for Facebook) and, in the eyes of the government and consumer advocates, quite greedy (ITA Software bid, Groupon try).

Google finds its search dominance, now at 66.6 percent in the U.S., challenged more by rivals' desire to sue to keep Google from encroaching on their tiny turf than from Yahoo or Bing. Is this sad? Yes. It's also true.

Take the ITA bid. Google wants to pay $700 million to acquire the online travel software provider. Expedia and others are telling the Justice Department why this shouldn't happen: bad for competition, blah, blah, blah.

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission launched an exhaustive investigation into whether it should allow Google to buy mobile ad provider AdMob. It relented, and now Google is cleaning house in mobile ads.

There is a certain irony here. ... Oh yes! AdMob will help Google make more money, extend its mobile search and ad dominance, and get an even larger bulls-eye. I think the DOJ will be swooping in, annoyed that the FTC didn't nip it in the bud sooner.

Now for Google to buy anything by small companies few people outside tech have ever heard of, it must wheel and deal like Big Tobacco or Big Telco. That costs money.

Meanwhile, Foundem and others have successfully lobbied the European Commission to investigate Google for more or less the same objections that has to Google's ITA bid: that letting Google create competing Web services atop its leading search platform is bad for everyone but Google.

This smells like Microsoft's sloppy Windows bundling stew bubbling up all over again. Remember Microsoft paid billions to settle. Leftovers anyone?

Google's own search dynasty, which has paid for itself billions of times over, is proving quite expensive to maintain.

I'm still waiting for the big lawsuit, some big finding of technically illegal malfeasance that gets Google in hot water. Right now, what I hear and see are lapdogs nipping at the Great Google Dane's heels.

And that translates to Google barking on Capitol Hill for respect and, perhaps, paying a little scratch--as little as $5 million can be given the context--to keep the lines for network neutrality and other issues it views as vital to extend its ad dominance open. |

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