Google Says “It’s Our Web”–and they bought it fair and square
Who can forget then-candidate Ronald Reagan’s classic line at the 1980 New Hampshire candidate’s debate: “I’m paying for this microphone!” And Google probably is wishing that whichever Ivy League idiot thought of rebranding their anti-SOPA campaign site with the double entendre “It’s Our Web” had not been quite so…uh..transparent…about it all.
Because it certainly is “their web” and they bought it fair and square according to the New York Times:
With Congress and privacy watchdogs breathing down its neck, Google is stepping up its lobbying presence inside the Beltway — spending more than Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft combined in the first three months of the year.
Google spent $5.03 million on lobbying from January through March of this year, a record for the Internet giant, and a 240 percent increase from the $1.48 million it spent on lobbyists in the same quarter a year ago, according to disclosures filed Friday with the clerk of the House.
Five Million Dollars. In the first three months of the year. Now…what else happened in the first 3 months of this year?
Ah yes. The Google Spring.
Keep this in mind–this is $5 million of actual lobbying expenditures that must be disclosed by law. This is not the total that Google spent on its public affairs campaign against SOPA. This is just the part that they are required to disclose, that they must disclose, that even Google is compelled to disclose by necessity.
And it’s not the necessity of Google’s disclosure that causes the company to file these disclosures. It is the reciprocal burden on “covered officials” who will stop talking to Google if Google fails to disclose these expenditures. THAT is why Google files these disclosures and what you should have learned about the company by now is that they are doing the absolute minimum that they can get away with when it comes to complying with the laws the rest of the 99.9999999999% have to live under. Let’s say you don’t care about promoting the sale of controlled substances, human trafficking, or copyright infringement and that the company’s reprehensible behavior in those areas doesn’t move you.
Let’s say you don’t care about the antitrust laws, using monopoly power to bankrupt competitors, and stealing the cultural heritage of nations, either.
And let’s say that you don’t care about how Google promotes Android as the Joe Camel of privacy, either.
You must have noticed, however, that Google completely stonewalled the FCC just last week and refused to cooperate with the Commission’s investigation into Google’s “snooper scooper” practices of snarfing up personal information from unsuspecting consumers while Google was simultaneously taking pictures of their homes.
So what about stonewalling the government says “full disclosure” to you when it comes to lobbying?
Google, of course, really stepped up its lobbying campaign–some staffers have suggested that they had two lobbyists or consultants for each Member of Congress. Google’s lobbying expenditures had already tripled to $3.76M in Q4 2011, and that doesn’t count what it spends on the union buster Net Coalition, Public Knowledge, EFF, ACLU, and so on and so on and so on.
Nancy Pelosi (CA-D) and Darrell Issa (CA-R) publicly came out against SOPA shortly after Google’s testified against SOPA. Google is the 8th-largest contributor to Nancy Pelosi and is listed as a top 3 contributor to Darrel Issa on OpenSecrets.org. Facebook is also listed as a top Pelosi contributor. (Issa, incidentally, is the richest Member of Congress.)
The Pelosi connection is also of interest because Erik Stallman reportedly joined the Net Coalition lobbying firm Holch & Erickson as “retained counsel” right about that Google’s anti SOPA campaign heated up–until January 2011 Stallman had served as chief technology counsel to House Minority Leader and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Net Coalition circulated the union busting flyers at meetings of conservative organizations in Washington and seems to be leading Google’s dirty tricks campaign against organized labor who opposed Google on rogue sites.
Oh, and that $5 million? That doesn’t include what Google paid Net Coalition.
MTP readers will remember the excellent article by David Rodnitsky ”Lobbyists 1, Internet 0: An Alternative Take on SOPA” that describes the anti-SOPA astroturf campaign–required reading now that we know that Google’s disclosed lobbying cash was nearly $10 million for Q4 2011 and Q1 2012.
“As we have seen over the last year, there are a number of technology issues being debated in Washington,” said Samantha Smith, a Google spokeswoman, in an e-mail message. “These are important issues and it should be expected that we would want to help people understand our business.”
That would be Samantha Smith, former Press Secretary to Senator Richard Burr and current Senior Associate for Policy Communications at Google’s Washington, DC digs. You’ll find her listed in the “Revolving Door” section on Open Secrets. I guess the Times missed that.
But–we’re not quite ready to let the New York Times off the hook just yet.
In the April 15 issue of the Times, we find an article entitled “White House Doors Open for Big Donors” that starts out this way:
Last May, as a battle was heating up between Internet companies and Hollywood over how to stop online piracy, a top entertainment industry lobbyist landed a meeting at the White House with one of President Obama’s technology advisers.
The lobbyist did not get there by himself.
He was accompanied by Antoinette C. Bush, a well-connected Washington lawyer who has represented companies like Viacom, Sony and News Corporation for 30 years. A friend of the president and a cousin of his close aide Valerie B. Jarrett, Ms. Bush has been to the White House at least nine times during his term, taking lobbyists along on a few occasions, joining an invitation-only forum about intellectual property, and making social visits with influential friends.
Ah yes. Hollywood lobbyists got access to the Obama White House about SOPA. There is not one word in this entire article about Google, even though the authors point out that Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group visited the White House with his client Amgen, a pharmaceutical company.
That would be Viacom that is suing Google and just won an appellate victory against the company, and a pharma company–Google paid $500,000,000 to avoid an indictment for promoting the importation of controlled substances.
And Podesta Group? $480,000 from Google in 2011 and Lord knows how much so far this year.
But Google is not mentioned once in the NYT article on lobbying–including lobbying by Google’s most highly paid lobbyists.
The article uses charts and graphs of political donations to President Obama to conclude “Major Givers are More Likely to Get White House Access”.
OK, fine. The NYT gets a fish and a pat on the head. How about the part they missed?
How about really major givers are more likely to get a White House job.
Yes, his name is Andrew McLaughlin.
Former Google executive Andrew McLaughlin’s resignation last week as the White House’s No. 2 technology expert has stirred up questions about how the search giant has been influencing the national debates over Do Not Track and net neutrality.
Oh, and “last week” was Christmas Week, 2010. Nice and quiet. And poof, he was gone–after some really embarassing revelations obtained through FOIAs that showed McLaughlin in direct email communications–undisclosed and illegal communications–using his private Gmail account in violation of many, many laws. Gmails with Markham Erickson of Net Coalition (remember him?) and Alan Davidson, head lobbyist for Google. And just like Google was allowed to pay a fine to avoid jail for violating laws on controlled substances, Andrew McLaughlin got a deal and has never been prosecuted or formally investigated (despite saber rattling by Congressman Issa at the time).
Andrew we hardly knew ye. But not something that the New York Times felt the need to include in their article about entertainment and pharma lobbyists getting access to the White House.
I guess the article was about access to the White House–not about people who were already inside the White House. Silly me.
Lobbying, you see, takes many forms. One is propaganda.
But after all–Google paid for their microphone. They bought it fair and square.
See also, Is Android the Joe Camel of Privacy?