Google Builds Political Clout, Hires Key Lobbyist

Google Builds Political Clout, Hires Key Lobbyist

Google hired former Congresswoman Susan Molinari to run its Washington lobbying efforts, ramping up efforts to influence tech-oriented legislation.

Molinari will begin as Google’s vice president of public policy and government relations as early as next month. The high-profile GOP politician represented a Staten Island district from 1990 to 1997, then went into lobbyist work for a number of companies, including Google’s newly acquired Motorola.

The hire comes at a time when lawmakers and regulators are looking at Google under an increasingly stringent lens. Google wants, and needs, team members who can navigate Washington processes, formally and on the inside. Hiring an insider like Molinari gives Google an edge above competition at a crucial moment when international concern over possible anti-trust violations is increasing, and regulators are examining Google’s digital operations.

Lawmakers are scrutinizing Google’s new privacy policy about its treatment of user data. In addition, the recently introduced a Consumer Bill of Rights signals rising federal interest in how digital heavyweights treat users’ data and privacy. Google likely hopes Molinari’s appointment will keep its best interests from being sideswiped by those of the government.

Political allies are increasingly important for tech giants like Google, as lawmakers engage in philosophical debates about Internet regulation, like the SOPA/PIPA policy, and tech companies assert themselves in the political process. In that instance, pressure from Google and others helped influence the outcome of the anti-piracy legislation, which they say threatened their operation.

Discussions around FCC regulations, which control what telecommunications and Internet companies can and cannot do, are also important to Google as seeks to expand its mobile divisions and experiment with other services.

As these discussions continue, Google is being selective in choosing an insider who knows the ropes like Molinari, whose hiring comes after the exit of Alan Davidson amid the flurry of governmental pressure.

Google is shifting more resources to the political realm as well, spending almost $9.7 million lobbying efforts last year, almost double the $5.1 million in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The search giant isn’t alone in its attempts to strengthen its political influence. Facebook started a political action committee to gear up for the 2012 elections, and employs a number of former Washington officials within its ranks.

By tapping Molinari to run lobbying efforts, Google is protecting itself from being hobbled by federal policies, and demonstrates that having someone who knows the law will help them navigate how it works. Google’s moves are being closely watched by regulators, and congressional decisions potentially threaten its operations, so a decisive lobbying strategy will help Google navigate Capitol Hill wisely, and with experience.

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