Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Why is Google spending record sums on lobbying Washington?

Figures released last week show that Google spent a record amount of almost $6m lobbying in Washington DC in the past three months, putting the Silicon Valley behemoth on track to be the top corporate lobbying spender in the US. Last year it ranked No 2, behind Comcast. Given the increased antitrust scrutiny that is coming from the Democrats’ new “Better Deal” policy platform, Donald Trump’s random tweets attacking Google’s fellow tech giant Amazon for its connection to the Washington Post, and his adviser Steve Bannon’s recent comments that Google and Facebook should be regulated as utilities, it is likely Google will only increase its lobbying expenditure in the next few months. The largest monopoly in America, Google controls five of the top six billion-user, universal web platforms – search, video, mobile, maps and browser – and leads in 13 of the top 14 commercial web functions, according to Scott Cleland at Precursor Consulting.
As the controversial Trump-supporting PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel points out, companies like Google don’t like to advertise this fact. They “lie to protect themselves”, Thiel says. “They know that bragging about their great monopoly invites being audited, scrutinized and attacked. Since they very much want their monopoly profits to continue unmolested, they tend to do whatever they can to conceal their monopoly – usually by exaggerating the power of their (nonexistent) competition.”

For years, banks, oil companies and defense contractors dominated the Washington lobbying business. Because controlling government regulation and government contracts was key to their business success, shareholders saw the expenditure Norton Customer Service UK of millions a year on lobbyists and political contributions as an unavoidable cost of doing business.When the federal government began pursuing Microsoft for antitrust violations in 1992, the Seattle software giant was caught off guard. It had almost no presence in Washington and spent almost no money on lobbyists.

That soon changed. For its part, Google, as it began to assert its domination of the search advertising business, started to take steps to ensure it had a strong presence in Washington. In 2002, Google spent less than $50,000 on lobbyists; 10 years later it was spending more than $18m a year.
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