An Internet advocacy group with technology giants such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo as clients is trying to move from informal coalition to permanent Beltway presence.
NetCoalition is searching for its first full-time executive director since the organization began lobbying on behalf of Internet and technology companies more than a decade ago, people familiar with the group’s plans told Roll Call today.
One of the sources said the advocacy group seeks a “high profile, seasoned executive director, someone who can help ensure NetCoalition has a prominent seat at the table in key policy discussions around town.”
“This would elevate the group from its current functionality as a loose coalition of Internet companies to more of a trade association presence,” the source said.
The group, currently operating under the part-time leadership of Markham Erickson, founding partner of Holch & Erickson, is also expanding its lobbying muscle. NetCoalition has already spent $140,000 on lobbying this year, up from a total of $40,000 spent last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
This year, the group hired two lobbying firms, TwinLogic Strategies and Black Swan, to represent its interests on Capitol Hill.
NetCoalition unites some of the leading technology companies, including Amazon.com, eBay and Expedia, in a coalition that could be a powerful force on Capitol Hill. But its budget is still small when compared with the millions spent annually by Google and Microsoft on lobbying.
The group is also just one of several representing Silicon Valley in policy debates. Many NetCoalition members are also part of TechAmerica and the Computer & Communications Industry Association.
An anti-piracy bill moving through Congress could serve as an early test of NetCoalition’s influence. The organization opposes the Stop Online Piracy Act introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and its Senate version, the Protect IP Act.
Many well-funded advocacy groups, including the Motion Picture Association of America, support the bills, which aim to curb counterfeiting and piracy of American intellectual property. NetCoalition has said the bills go too far in regulating the sector and could impede innovation and free speech, charges Smith dismisses.
“Because this bill focuses on illegal activity, legitimate and lawful American businesses should have nothing to worry about,” Smith said in a statement.
One of NetCoalition’s challenges is keeping its own membership united. Last year, Google publicly distanced itself from NetCoalition’s opposition to the proposed merger of Comcast and NBC Universal. The search company declined to take a stance on the deal, undermining NetCoalition’s claim that it serves as the “public policy voice for the nation’s leading Internet companies.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.