Google, one of the fastest-growing companies in Silicon Valley, is ramping up its political clout in Washington, D.C., while taking a series of steps to court Republicans.
The company is filing paperwork today to open its first-ever political action committee, and later this month, it will make an endangered GOP incumbent the beneficiary of its first-ever Washington fundraiser.
The search-engine giant this month also deepened its ties to Republicans by inking a deal with former GOP Sens. Dan Coats (Ind.) and Connie Mack (Fla.) to lobby on its behalf.
The moves come at the end of a politically trying year for Google, which has become a powerful force in the new economy but a relatively fledgling presence inside the Beltway.
The company endured sharp Congressional criticism early in 2006 for bending to censorship demands by China, one of the company’s key emerging markets.
Then, this spring, Google and its tech-sector allies were tarred as Democratic shills by phone and cable companies in a battle over Internet regulation that the tech companies lost.
And over the summer, the company was rapped by a key House Republican for what the lawmaker suggested was too lax an approach to policing child pornography.
Alan Davidson, the company’s top lobbyist, said that Google’s unique position in the market will continue to cast it into the middle of controversial policy debates. As a result, he said, the company views its investment in the nation’s capital as an evolving, long-term project.
“We’re growing, and we’re going to continue to grow,” he said. “We believe it’s critical to work with policymakers as they make decisions that will impact our users and industry.”
An important part of that effort will be to convince Republicans that Google is eager to work with them and that its reputation here as a liberal company is undeserved. “Google’s values are not Republican or Democratic values,” Davidson said. “We support free markets and opportunity and innovation. Those are ideas both parties can support.”
But the political donations by the company’s employees tell a different story — a fact that GOPers on and off Capitol Hill said has been duly noted.
During the 2006 election cycle, the company’s employees have overwhelmingly favored Democratic candidates, political action committees and causes. Out of 142 donations to federal candidates and committees, Google employees have given to just four Republicans: $2,000 to Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.); $1,000 to Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman Ted Stevens (Alaska); $1,000 to Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.); and $500 to Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.).
A review of employee donations reads like a who’s who of liberal candidates and organizations, including many contributions to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), anti-war Connecticut Senate candidate Ned Lamont (D) and the MoveOn.org PAC, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.com.
On Wednesday, the company, with TechNet, will co-host its first-ever Washington fundraiser, on behalf of Rep. Heather Wilson (N.M.), one of the most endangered GOP incumbents and a supporter of Google’s position on “net neutrality,” the key Internet regulatory issue that got Google entangled with the phone and cable companies. EBay, the online auction company, is also a co-host.
The company’s PAC, officially known as Google NetPAC, is filing its paperwork with the Federal Election Commission today. In another sign of an effort at corporate political balance, Google NetPAC has retained Ben Ginsberg, the top political lawyer at Patton Boggs and one-time counsel to both Bush-Cheney 2000 and Bush-Cheney ’04. Ginsberg is serving as an outside adviser to the PAC, ensuring that it adheres to campaign finance laws.
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