Its CEO already one of President Obama’s most prominent supporters in the corporate world, Google is dramatically increasing its influence in Washington, according to an advocacy organization, citing a government database.
The California-based Internet giant increased its spending on lobbying in the first quarter by 57 percent over the previous year as it paid $1.3 million to influence lawmakers and regulators, according to Consumer Watchdog, which cited public records filed Tuesday.
“Google is relatively new to the influence-peddling game, but they’re now one of the highest rollers in Washington,” says John Simpson, consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog.
Lobbying disclosure forms filed with the Senate Office of Public Affairs show Google spent $880,000 in the first quarter of 2009. Lobbying expenses for all of 2009 totaled $4.03 million. First quarter spending in 2010 was up 23 percent from the $1.12 million the company spent in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to Consumer Watchdog, a Washington-based group that often has been critical of Google’s forays into public policy, particularly as it relates to privacy and consumer protection.
Consumer Watchdog particularly takes issue with Google’s reported claim that its growing presence in Washington is for the benefit of its users. Indeed, Google is coming under increased scrutiny from federal regulators, some of whom have the power to block key moves the company wants to make to increase its profit.
Google’s lobbying disclosure form includes both money it spent itself and money paid to outside firms to lobby on its behalf. The company is spreading its influence across Washington even as its leader has a very personal connection to the current occupant of the White House.
Google chief executive Eric Schmidt jumped on as a big supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential bid. After Obama’s victory in 2008, Schmidt became an unofficial adviser for Obama’s transition team before ultimately being named an official technology adviser of the president’s as a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). PCAST is a longstanding advisory body that existed long before Obama came to the Oval Office.
Schmidt makes no secret of his political leanings, but his company doles out money to both Democrats and Republicans, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Google’s political spending, in fact, is fairly mundane, as the company appears to follow the common practice of major corporations by contributing to the leaders in power, but also hedging its bets by donating to the opposition, as well.
Of the $270,000 that Google donated to federal candidates in 2008, the company gave 58 percent to Democrats and 42 percent to Republicans. That pattern appears to be holding up this year, too. Google, for instance, has given $5,000 each to both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s re-election campaign, and to House GOP Leader John Boehner.
Google’s 2010 contributions to senators include to the election of appointed freshman Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as conservative Republican firebrand Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina. The company also gave to the campaigns of both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and the 2014 re-election of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — although it has favored Reid by contributing $500 more so far to his campaign than to that of McConnell.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.