Amid the sturm and drang about what Obama’s top antitrust attorney might do to or about Google comes a new treat from the Wall Street Journal (paywall) vis-Ã -vis lobbying documents filed with the House of Representatives and the Senate.
In a nutshell, Google shelled out nearly $1 million in the second quarter lobbying the federal government and others on behalf of all of its businesses, core or marginal. Google’s $950,000 total lobbying spending bests the $880,000 it spent in the first quarter and is about 30 percent greater than the $730,000 it spent in the second quarter of 2008.
So what has Google lobbied about? How about issues ranging from the regulation of online ads and copyright issues related to the Google Book Search settlement to cyber-security as it relates to cloud computing and renewable energy resources.
Sympathetic seeds may be sowing themselves within the government ranks, as Andrew McLaughlin, previously part of Google’s political action committee, recently joined the White House Office of Science and Technology as deputy technology officer for Internet Policy.
Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land commented that this is the price Google must pay to play in its evolution from a simple search engine to the place to go for Web services and content, from video on its YouTube unit to collaboration and even phone communications:
“This is another marker of the transition Google has been going through over the past several years, from tech neophyte to major media company. Lobbying is simply part of the cost of doing business for a company of Google’s size and visibility.“
I asked Google about its lobbying spending and a spokesperson told me the same thing he told the WSJ: “There are a growing number of issues being debated in Washington that affect the Internet and our users and we think it’s important to be involved in those debates.”
I can’t disagree with that. The spokesperson also supplied this slide showing Google’s relatively low lobbying spending compared with Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon and IBM:
As you can see, Google’s spending is but a drop in the bucket compared with these more venerable vendors, but it’s still on pace to double its current spending.
Let’s look at it another way: Google is comparing itself to companies that have all been around a lot longer and dwarf Google in size, revenues and lobbying spending.
The closest in the lobbying department to Google is IBM, with a lobbying budget that at $5.3 million is nearly three times that of Google. But IBM also banked $98 billion in sales compared with Google’s $21 million.
That Google is even comparing itself to two of the largest technology providers in the world and the two biggest phone carriers — it’s hardly the perfect comparison I would expect the company to make.
Why not pick some more modestly sized vendors? Putting itself in the same grid as these giants is not the most effective way to downplay lobbying spending, is it?