John Paczkowski

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Google Loses Longtime Lobbyist (Updated)

Eric Schmidt (left) with Alan Davidson and an unidentified mime

Looks like Google’s in the market for a new influence peddler. Alan Davidson, who has long served as director of public policy and government affairs for the company, is moving on.

“It’s been a remarkable experience — and a very exciting and intense time — but I’m ready for a new challenge,” Davidson said in an email to colleagues. “After six and a half years, I’ve decided it’s the right moment for me to leave my current role at the company. Starting later this month, I will be taking a sabbatical to explore other opportunities.”

Davidson’s departure is a bit of a surprise, and a real blow to Google. He was the company’s first full-time lobbyist in Washington and the guy who established its presence in the Beltway. He’s leaving at a time when Google is mired in all sorts of regulatory issues and facing increased scrutiny of its operations. So the company is understandably scrambling to replace him. Sources say it’s hoping to replace Davidson with a former member of Congress in an effort to further bolster its Capitol clout.

Sounds like exactly the sort of lobbyist that company chairman Eric Schmidt described in this October interview with the Washington Post.

“The conclusion that we came to [as far back as when I was at Sun Microsystems] is that there are two kinds of lobbying,” Schmidt said. “And this, I think, is grossly unfair but kind of true. There’s the kind of lobbying where you pay an ex-senator to get the current senator to write a sentence into a bill, and there’s no confusion as to what this is about. You are representing your corporate interest. It’s specific to your company. In Washington, for example, you can pay an ex-person $50,000 to arrange a meeting to get that process, to get those five sentences written in this bill, and so forth and so on.”

Davidson’s email in full, below:

From: Alan Davidson
Date: Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 4:35 PM
Subject: Time for a new challenge
To: Alan Davidson

In 2005, I joined Google in Washington to build a first-rate Internet
policy group. It’s been a remarkable experience – and a very exciting
and intense time — but I’m ready for a new challenge. After six and
half years, I’ve decided it’s the right moment for me to leave my
current role at the company. Starting later this month, I will be
taking a sabbatical to explore other opportunities.

When I started at Google none of us really knew how the Internet, and
this company, would grow and change. The mobile, cloud, and social
technologies just taking hold then are now full-on revolutions today.
At Google, we’ve grown from one person in shared rental space (me!) to
a large regional team with a flagship office in DC. I am intensely
proud of the team we have built throughout the Americas, and the work
we have done.

When we started the office, I knew that we couldn’t affect the major
policy debates of the day alone. It has only been in partnership with
so many of you that we have been able to make progress on many of the
great issues affecting the Internet. As we seek to fill my role, Pablo
Chavez will continue to be a good point of contact in our ongoing work
together. Thank you.

With best regards,
Alan


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work