Our D.C. Lobby Office's Motto Is 'Don't Be Too Evil'
Google is beginning to act like the $159 billion industry heavyweight it really is. The company, which until about 18 months ago had paid politics little mind, is ramping up its presence in Washington. Today Google has 12 lobbyists on staff in its Beltway offices and it’s adding more, among them a former high-ranking Justice Department antitrust lawyer to steward its proposed $3.1 billion acquisition of online ad-tech company DoubleClick through Washington’s power circles. And it’s just pulled off a successful policy assault against Microsoft, drafting an antitrust complaint to the Justice Department that forced Microsoft to make changes to its new Vista operating system.
“I’ve never seen a tech company ramp up faster than they have in the last year or two,” tech lobbyist Ralph Hellmann told the Mercury News. “They’re using all the tools in the lobbying tool kit.”
Indeed, earlier this week, Google announced the official launch of its “Public Policy Blog,” a mouthpiece for its views on government and politics. “We’re seeking to do public-policy advocacy in a Googley way,” Andrew McLaughlin, director of public policy and government affairs at Google, explained. “Yes, we’re a multinational corporation that argues for our positions before officials, legislators and opinion leaders. At the same time, we want our users to be part of the effort, to know what we’re saying and why, and to help us refine and improve our policy positions and advocacy strategies. With input and ideas from our users, we’ll surely do a better job of fighting for our common interests.”
And remember, “Don’t be evil” isn’t just a motto, it’s a way of life, right?
“Google is not a conventional company,” company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin said when they announced Google’s Dutch auction IPO a few years back. “We do not intend to become one.” Except when it comes to politics …
“Like Microsoft and other companies before it, Google has decided it will have to start playing the Washington game,” Cato Institute Executive Vice President David Boaz wrote last year. “It has opened a Washington office and hired well-connected lobbyists. One of the country’s top executive search firms is looking for a political director for the company.
“What should concern us here is how the government lured Google into the political sector of the economy. For most of a decade the company went about its business, developing software, creating a search engine better than any of us could have dreamed, and innocently making money. Then, as its size and wealth drew the attention of competitors, antibusiness activists, and politicians, it was forced to start spending some of its money and brainpower fending off political attacks. It’s the same process Microsoft went through a few years earlier, when it faced the same sorts of attacks. Now Microsoft is part of the Washington establishment, with more than $9 million in lobbying expenditures last year.
“… And that’s what the parasite economy is costing America. The founders of Microsoft and Google and other innovative companies are going to waste their brains on protecting their companies rather than thinking up new products and new ways to deliver them.
“Google’s new presence in Washington is entirely understandable, but it is a tragic symbol of the diversion of America’s productive resources into the unproductive world of political predation and the struggle to resist it.”