Googling Google: More Than Ever, it’s become a political player

12 Nov Googling Google: More Than Ever, it’s become a political player

Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2008
Google is becoming much more than the search engine that transformed the online information world. It’s become a political player, spending increasing sums on lobbying and campaign donations in Washington and Sacramento. It’s also becoming a target. “As it grows, it looks like it’s going toward a strategy that is much more like typical special interests,” said Doug Heller of Consumer Watchdog, formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a Santa Monicaadvocacy group challenging Google on privacy issues. Campaign donations, he said, form “a well worn path to political protection.” What does Google want? InWashington, the firm spent $3 million on lobbying in the first nine months of 2008. Its stable of lobbyists includes Anthony Podesta’s firm, the Podesta Group. Podesta’s brother, John Podesta, has become one of Barack Obama’s top advisors. Most recently, Google came under antitrust scrutiny by federal regulators for a plan, since abandoned, to combine advertising with competitor Yahoo. Some other issues include copyright, broadband access, energy, immigration, privacy and child-pornography-related matters. In Sacramento, Google spent $300,000 on lobbying in…. …2007 and 2008. That’s up from $200,000 in the 2005-06 legislative session. It also donated $77,000 to California politicians this year, three times more than it’s given in past years combined. Its issues range from privacy to state regulations focused on overtime pay to workers. In September, California lawmakers approved a measure that granted the computer industry an exemption from paying overtime to workers earning not less than $75,000. Google’s lobbyists worked on the bill, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it later in September. A month later, Google donated $25,000 to him. That was the largest single donation Google has given to a California politician.