There’s been a lot written in recent months about how Google has been building up its lobbying activities in Washington, D.C. As a relative newcomer to the world of politics, there’s been a perception that the whiz kids had lot of catching up to do. Back in June, the Mercury News’ Frank Davies wrote a good overview about just how rapidly the company was bulking up its D.C. presence.
Until now, though, the company hasn’t put a number on that investment. But in August, it filed a disclosure form that provides the most complete picture to date of its lobbying activities. According to Google’s filing, the company spent about $580,000 lobbying the federal government during the first six months of this year.
Alan Davidson runs the Washington operation for Google. And the company’s registered lobbyists includes Pablo Chavez, a former chief counsel for Senator John McCain.
It has also retained three notable Washington lobbying firms to help push for approval of the DoubleClick merger. The first is Brownstein Hyatt & Farber whose lobbyists include Makan Delrahim, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the anti-trust division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The next is King & Spalding, whose lobbyists include Daniel Coats, a former ambassador to Germany. And the third is Podesta Group, which is also helping the company on a broad range of issues.
As far as the other issues that interested Google, there weren’t too many surprises. The company lobbied on privacy issues; patent reform; online childhood protection; H-1B visas; various open Internet initiatives; and energy efficiency. The company lobbied the U.S. House and Senate, the Federal Trade Commission, and the U.S. Department of State.
So how much more money is that from previous years? It’s hard to say. According to Opensecrets.org, Google spent $800,000 on lobbying activities in 2006. But the problem is that 2006 figure only captures part of Google’s activities. Because of a quirk in the lobbying disclosure rules, only the firms hired by Google had been filing disclosure forms. Google had not filed its own disclosure form – which covers its own staff and the spending on outside firms – until this year because its staff in Washington was not devoting the majority of its time to lobbying, said Adam Kovacevich, a Washington spokesman for Google in an interview.
But the size of the spending is still fairly impressive for a new kid on the block. For instance, Cisco Systems (ticker:CSCO) of San Jose, which has a reputation for playing savvy politics, spent $680,000 the first six months of 2007. On the other hand, Oracle (ticker:ORCL) spent $1.86 million through June.
Kovacevich said the company isn’t necessarily worried about matching its high-tech brethren.
“Our aim isn’t to keep pace with anyone,” Kovacevich said. “Particularly with industries that have been in Washington longer than we have. Rather, our goal is to be part of the public debates that affect our users.”
Any firm that lobbies the federal government is required to file lobbying disclosure forms every six months. The most recent one covers activity for the first six months of 2007. But companies have six weeks to file, and then because the documents must be scanned in by a disclosure office, it can take several more weeks before they appear on the U.S. Senate’s website.