July 22, 2011

Google Increases 2Q Lobbying, Surpassing $2M

Google Inc. increased its lobbying expenses by 54 percent during the second quarter, surpassing $2 million for the first time, as the Internet search giant faces a probe by the Federal Trade Commission over its business practices.

The company spent $2.06 million lobbing members of Congress and federal government regulators during the April-June period, compared with $1.48 million in the first quarter and $1.34 million during the same period last year, the Associated Press reported, citing documents filed late Wednesday.

This is by far the most Google has spent lobbying the federal government since opening its Washington, D.C., office in 2005.

Google reported its lobbyists met with members of Congress, the FTC, U.S. Justice Department officials, the executive office of the President, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Trade Representatives.  Among the issues discussed were privacy and competition matters related to online advertising, the regulation of online advertising, patent reform, renewable energy, international free speech and censorship, and international tax reform, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

"We want to help policymakers understand our business and the work we do to keep the Internet open, to encourage innovation, and to create economic opportunity. Lobbying is a part of that process," said a Google spokeswoman in a statement to Reuters.

The FTC launched an investigation last month into whether Google is abusing its dominance in Internet search to direct online traffic to its own services, thereby driving up the ad prices that generate most of the company's revenue.

Google also faces antitrust probes in Europe and from several U.S. states.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is expected to defend the company's practices in September, when he is set to appear before a U.S. Senate committee that oversees issues related to antitrust law.

The company also hired Stewart Jeffries, a former antitrust counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, earlier this year.  Jeffries was among Google's registered lobbyists during the second quarter.

In addition to Jeffries, Google's team of lobbyists includes: Pablo Chavez, former chief counsel to Senator John McCain (R-AZ); Harry Wingo, former counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee; Johanna Shelton, former counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Frannie Wellings, a former legislative assistant to former Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND); Katherine Oyama, former associate counsel to the office of Vice President Joe Biden; and Seth Webb, who has held a number of positions for members of Congress.

Google, which reported revenue of about $29 billion in 2010, outspent  Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. on lobbying during the second quarter.
Microsoft, which has long been one of the industry's biggest spenders on lobbying, spent $1.85 million on their lobbying efforts during that time period.  Social networking firm Facebook spent $320,000 in federal lobbying during the second quarter, compared with about $60,000 in the second quarter of last year.


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