One of our readers helpfully pointed us to a story by Chris O'Brien that ran in the Mercury News over the weekend, which throws more light on this trend, indicating how Google's spend on lobbying in Washington DC had mushroomed in recent years. O'Brien writes:
"In just five years, the search engine giant has gone from almost no presence in Washington to spending more money on lobbying than all but one other Silicon Valley company in 2009. And in the past three months, Google topped all other valley spenders."The charts produced by the Mercury News show just how steep this curve has been, and how its lobbying expenditures are even starting to catch up with its fellow technology giants Microsoft and IBM:
The fact of Google's activities in DC is hardly surprising, but it is nice to get some detail behind the company's changing political status .... and to see just how much the company now sees policy makers as a key stakeholder. In a companion piece, O'Brien also takes a look at the changing face of the types of issues Google is lobbying on, and at some of the revolving doors between Google and the US government in terms of staffing. As he makes clear though, this is pretty much par for the course for a major multinational corporation - the point is not that Google is different (as it often likes to claim) but that it is essentially much the same. The big difference though is the speed of change, and the readiness with which Google has equipped itself for dealing with its political context - or as economists like to call it, the 'non-market environment'.
When we looked into our crystal ball at the beginning year, it looked likely that 2010 would be a pivotal year for Google in terms of corporate responsibility issues. There is every chance that with its growing power and the major impact it is having on industries such as media and publishing, a backlash could easily start to take off. However, the behind the scenes lobbying and the putative game-changing in China suggest that Google is reading the signs and seeking to head-off the critics before they can build up momentum. Getting this one right could be critical.
Figure copyright Mercury News