Google Surpasses Comcast As Top Tech Lobbyist

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Google spent a record $16.83 million last year and surpassed cable and telecom giant Comcast for the first time in lobbying the federal government, according to a new Consumer Watchdog report analyzing records filed by big tech and communications companies with the Clerk of the House.

“They’ve been very concerned about privacy regulations. They’ve been active in the space about net neutrality,” said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy director, in an interview Wednesday with the Mercury News. “They’ve just, I think, got the money to throw around and pressure policymakers the way they want to go.”

Google’s lobbying of federal regulators and lawmakers grew by 20 percent from 2013. Comcast was close behind at $16.8 million, but down 10 percent from the previous year.

Once considered Democrat-leaning, Google has increasingly sought to influence both sides of the aisle, hiring as its top lobbyist Susan Molinari, a former GOP congresswoman, in 2013. Simpson said his figures also don’t count all the “soft lobbying” Google and other tech companies do when they bankroll like-minded think-tanks and other organizations.

Simpson (who is no fan of Google, as we’ve reported previously) said the amount of money spent by tech and communications companies is outrageous and should concern the public.

“Policy-making isn’t about big ideas, it’s about big bucks,” he said. “Google doesn’t do anything unless it benefits their own bottom line. They might put it in the guise of ‘Don’t be evil,’ but they’re much more ruthless and calculating than people understand.”

Here is Consumer Watchdog’s list of the 2014 lobbying amounts for five other tech firms:

  • Cisco spent $2.35 million in 2014, a 25 percent decrease from 2013.
  • IBM spent $4.95 million, a 30 percent decrease.
  • Intel spent $3.80 million, a 13 percent decrease.
  • Oracle spent $5.83 million, a 3 percent decrease.
  • Yahoo spent $2.94 million, a 6 percent increase.*

Above: The elevator at Google’s Washington, D.C., headquarters is on Jan. 8, 2015. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

*An earlier version of this blog post mistakenly reported Yahoo’s change as a decrease. It was an increase of 6 percent.


Matt O'Brien is a business and technology reporter for the San Jose Mercury News and Bay Area News Group.

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