Google and Comcast Lobbying Spending Soars In First Quarter of 2015

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Google is under investigation in Europe over allegations it abused its dominance in search, while Comcast is seeking approval to merge with TWC

Google spent a record $5.47m on lobbying during the first quarter of 2015, an increase of 43% from $3.82m in theprevious year, according to figures compiled by non-profit group Consumer Watchdog.

According to disclosures just filed with the clerk of the House of Representatives, cable giant Comcast was Google’s closest rival, spending $4.62m in the quarter, an increase of 50% from $3.09m in the first quarter of 2014.

Both companies are in the midst of protracted political negotiations. European Union competition chief Margrethe Vestager has launched an investigation into allegations that Google abused its dominance in search. A separate investigation has been launched into Android, its mobile operating system. Google is keen on US support for its position and to head off any attempts at similar moves in the US.

The latest number topped the $5.03m Google spent on lobbying in the first quarter of 2012 when the company was facing an antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.

Comcast is currently seeking approval for a mega-merger with Time Warner Cable, a deal that would hand the merged entity control of two thirds of the broadband internet market and has angered consumer groups.

While the two giants were the biggest lobbying spenders among 16 tech and communications companies monitored by Consumer Watchdog, there were also other notable rises in spending.

Amazon’s lobbying spending soared 130% to $1.91m in the first quarter of 2015, up from $830,000 a year earlier. The company has been actively lobbying for relaxation of rules regulating the use of drones.

The Google and Comcast increases came as most other tech and communications companies slightly trimmed or held their lobbying costs flat, the House records show. Google’s second highest first-quarter spending was $5.03 million in 2012 when the internet giant was facing an antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.

“Even though many companies slightly trimmed their first-quarter spending, it’s important to understand just how much money these companies are throwing around in Washington to buy the policies they want,” said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director. “Policymaking is now all about big bucks, not big ideas.”

Facebook, which has been increasing its Washington presence, spent $2.44m, a decrease of 12% from $2.78m in the comparable 2014 quarter. Microsoft’s spending dipped 9% to $1.89m from $2.08m.

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