Sunday, April 13, 2014

How Google is Transforming Power and Politics; The Arc of Change in the Influence Business

WaPo has an important article out detailing how Google is upping its Washington D.C. influence efforts.

Here's a snippet:
In May 2012, the law school at George Mason University hosted a forum billed as a “vibrant discussion” about Internet search competition. Many of the major players in the field were there — regulators from the Federal Trade Commission, federal and state prosecutors, top congressional staffers.

What the guests had not been told was that the day-long academic conference was in large part the work of Google, which maneuvered behind the scenes with GMU’s Law & Economics Center to put on the event. At the time, the company was under FTC investigation over concerns about the dominance of its famed search engine, a case that threatened Google’s core business.

In the weeks leading up to the GMU event, Google executives suggested potential speakers and guests, sending the center’s staff a detailed spreadsheet listing members of Congress, FTC commissioners, and senior officials with the Justice Department and state attorney general’s offices.

“If you haven’t sent out the invites yet, please use the attached spreadsheet, which contains updated info,” Google legal assistant Yang Zhang wrote to Henry Butler, executive director of the law center, according to internal e-mails obtained by The Washington Post through a public records request. “If you’ve sent out the invites, would it be possible to add a few more?”

Butler replied, “We’re on it!”...
The behind-the-scenes machinations demonstrate how Google — once a lobbying weakling — has come to master a new method of operating in modern-day Washington, where spending on traditional lobbying is rivaled by other, less visible forms of influence.

That system includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects.

The rise of Google as a top-tier Washington player fully captures the arc of change in the influence business.

Nine years ago, the company opened a one-man lobbying shop, disdainful of the capital’s pay-to-play culture.

Since then, Google has soared to near the top of the city’s lobbying ranks, placing second only to General Electric in corporate lobbying expenditures in 2012 and fifth place in 2013.

Of note, the article shows that Google is moving away from its strong lefty support to work with right wing power politics players.  The GMU’s Law & Economics Center counts among its supporters the Charles Koch Foundation and the Koch-supported Cato Institute. This, of course, signals more prominence for Milton Friedman and Freidrich Hayek and a reach out to crony-establishment Republicans than it does new prominence for the great consistent free market economists Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard.

More from WaPo:
In their visit to Heritage that day, Google officials were eager to make new friends. Their challenge was instantly clear.

“In 2008, your CEO campaigned for Barack Obama,” said Mike Gonzalez, Heritage’s vice president for communications, according to a video of the event. “. . . As a company, you’re really identified with this administration from the beginning. And you come here and you’re like a mix of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek.”

Adam Kovacevich, then a member of Google’s policy team, responded by stressing the company’s interest in building new alliances.

“One of the things we’ve recognized is that no company can get anything done in Washington without partnerships on both sides of the aisle,” he said.

He noted the recent hiring of Lee Carosi Dunn, one of several former top aides to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) brought on by the company.

Dunn, addressing the audience, promised “a lot of reach-out to Republicans.”
Bottom line, this indicates, sadly, how major of a role Washington D.C. is playing in business and how corporations must play the D.C. influence game to protect themselves from destructive regulation. Naturally, once this influence is gained, the temptation exists to not only use the influence in a defensive manner against regulation that inhibits liberty-consistent operations, but to use the power against competitors.

The full article is here.

1 comment:

  1. It is a great investment for large companies and banks. They receive huge govt. contracts; they fend off incoming; they limit competition. An interesting recent article about Comcast! maybe they will take a page from Google soon. Small businesses are nothings, and large companies that do not do this are taken out. DC has become a Gilded Age city on the hill, it is all about the loot.