Why Are These Two States The Only Holdouts In The Massive Antitrust Probe Of Google?

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By Marcus Baram, FAST COMPANY

September 10, 2019


When attorneys general from almost every state in the country launched a massive investigation into Google’s “potential monopolistic behavior” yesterday, two states were notable for their absence: California and Alabama. After all, these types of probes gain extra authority when they’re done through a coordinated effort of all the states. And California is known for its aggressive regulatory approach when it comes to the tech sector, passing the nation’s only digital privacy law last year.

Consumer advocates were perplexed. “I just do not understand why California is not a part of this effort,” John Simpson, the former privacy and technology project director at Consumer Watchdog, toldthe Los Angeles Times. “Google has monopolized the market and really needs to be held accountable for that.”

California attorney general Xavier Becerra declined to offer a reason for the state’s decision not to join the probe of Google, which is headquartered in the state, only citing a need to protect the integrity of “potential and ongoing investigations.” Spokespersons for Becerra did not respond to a request for comment from Fast Company, but they told the Los Angeles Times, “California remains deeply concerned and committed to fighting anticompetitive behavior.”

A rep for Alabama attorney general Steve Marshall did not return a request for comment.

It’s not as if Google has bought that much influence with attorneys general. The company focuses most of its firepower on the federal level. Its parent company, Alphabet, spent more than $21.7 million on lobbying and more than $8.2 million in direct political donations in 2018, according to FollowTheMoney.org. That dwarfs the amount the company spent on attorney general candidates around the country—$109,984—in total since 2010. Google contributed $30,300 to Becerra and $3,000 to Marshall in 2018.

Certainly in California, Google exercises a lot of clout by lobbying state and local agencies and contributing to dozens of powerful lawmakers. As for Alabama, Google recently broke ground on a $600 million data center in Jackson County that is expected to hire as many as 100 full-time workers, though it’s just one part of a massive $13 billion investmentin new data center operations in at least eight states across the country.

Consumer Watchdog
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