Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, revealed today that Google upped its spending on Washington lobbyists by a mammoth 57% from the same period last year. Lobbying disclosure forms filed with the Senate Office of Public Affairs show that the firm handed over $1.3 million in the first quarter of 2010, compared with $880,000 in 2009.
"Five years ago they had no one in Washington," John M. Simpson, consumer advocate of Consumer Watchdog, told Fast Company in a phone interview. "Now they’re one, if not the single biggest tech firm, but they’re right up there on the list, in the top three or four [in terms of lobbying dollars spent] It shows they’ve decided that they want to up the stakes, and be high rollers in the Washington scene."
So just what is it that Google is lobbying for? "It’s clear they’re interested in some of the privacy issues around the FTC," Simpson continued, comparing them to Microsoft. "The whole issue of behavioral advertising too."
"They’re very big into net neutrality," he said. "Despite their talk of don’t be evil, they’re falling right into the typical influence-peddling approach that other big, gargantuan companies have followed."
Last year, when Google announced its Q3 results, Eric Schmidt was a very happy man. The time was ripe, he said, for the company to start investing heavily, through expenditure (more of which in a bit) and acquisitions to the tune of one small company a month. According to Reuters, Google’s got its beady eye on ITA, a tech firm that sells travel information to companies such as Orbitz, CheapTickets, Kayak.com and Microsoft. Price? A rumored $1 billion.
Grabbing ITA will allow the Mountain View company to get a leg up on Microsoft, whose travel search features on Bing are, for the moment, leaving Google at the departure gate scrabbling in its capacious pockets for its boarding pass. There’s no guarantee that the deal will go through, but it seems like an obvious move by Google in its quest to be the fount of all the world’s information. Those lobbyists will help insure that the government doesn’t get in the way.
It’s also acquired, super-quiet like, a hardware firm that goes by the name of Agnilux, which is based in San Jose and staffed by a bunch of people who previously worked at Cisco, Apple and TiVo. Although Agnilux is keeping very schtumm about what it is it actually produces, the clue could lie in the staff’s previous employers. There are two possibilities: the first is that they are making chips very similar to the one found in the soon-to-be-released iPhone which were leaked this week by Gizmodo. Google’s Android OS, while improving its market share all the time, is still struggling to put a dent in the iPhone’s increasing dominance in the smartphone OS market. The second possibility is that they are en route to doing something very clever with server technology. Either way, Google is getting ready to step up the battle with Apple and Microsoft, on the phone and search front.