Feeds

Don't mess with Google's astroturf squad

DC's hardcore lobbyists go to work

High performance access to file storage

The internet ad giant has hired hardcore Washington lobbyists the DCI Group to give it more clout inside the Beltway, blogger Josh Marshall reminds us today.

It's actually really old news, merely resurfacing in the current edition of Beltway insider mag Roll Call.

Back in March, the New York Times' Kate Phillips reported how Google had hired DCI, a lobby network with close ties to senior Bush political advisor Karl Rove. Google explained that DCI Group VP Stuart Roy was in charge of lobbying for Google's Print project. Roy previously served as communication director for Tom DeLay, the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Other specific directions for DCI weren't disclosed.

The DCI Group has orchestrated campaigns on behalf of GOP candidates and has close ties to the Republican administration, and corporate clients include tobacco, pharmaceutical and telecoms giants. DCI recently did a spell for the Colonel's regime in Myanmar, formerly Burma.

Nor is the revelation that Google is friendly with neoconservative headbangers news either - it hired Dan Senor last year.

What makes DCI interesting is its speciality is "astroturfing" - or creating phoney grassroots campaigns.

Long before it employed bloggers to do the job for it, Microsoft hired sympathetic members of the public to make its case in online forums, posing as disinterested citizens. Things got much more professional as the antitrust trial unfurled. After hiring DCI in the late 1990s, Microsoft created two new trade groups, the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), and the Americans for Technology Leadership (ALT), and marshaled campaigns such as "Freedom to Innovate" - encouraging Windows users the chance to make spontaneous gestures of support for Chairman Bill.

These weren't always too successful. A campaign in 2001 to petition 17 state's Attorney Generals - who had pooled resources to bring their own antitrust action against Microsoft - resulted in supportive letters being written by dead people.

And the astroturf taint continues today.

Most recently, a spoof video portraying Al Gore as a Penguin was reported to have originated from a computer registered to the DCI Group, although the lobby group said it did not fund or approve the video.

So what does Google want from Washington? Pretty much the same as every other business, one can safely presume: minimal interference in the serious business of accumulating large quantities of money. (Google's $10bn cash hoard is now so large, as a proportion of its assets, that it now officially qualifies as a bank under SEC rules; in July it applied for an exemption from this rule).

And every public corporation needs to expand. Google's growth in the first hand of this decade was powered by contextual advertising - but consultants McKinsey recently revised its estimate for this market downwards, figuring that everyone who wants to place a contextual ad will already have done so. Google is exploring more conventional ad sources, but this puts its up against more established players. So where else can it find some growth opportunities?

More recently Google has thrown its weight behind its campaign for pre-emptive legislation to fiber companies from charging for QoS. Like its Silicon Valley peers, Google is eyeing HD TV delivery, which needs the kind of 100mbit/s pipes Verizon is laying, and low jitter, which is something guarantee if your neighbor is running Bittorrent. The hampering of for-free QoS would give it this kind of service, without the astronomical capital investment of laying this fiber.

(You can read how Google's most distinguished tech lobbyist Vint Cerf approaches these arguments here; and get a spectrum (no pun intended) of reader opinion here, to see how nuanced the issues are.

Under the banner "net neutrality", the campaign has gathered plenty of alarmed people, convinced that "the internet is being privatized". Mirth-makers recently poked fun at Senator Ted Stevens, who chewed his words when trying to explain that the internet is "a series of tubes". (That's not a bad description, actually). It's a mark of lobbying success to present everyone else as the lobby.

Net Neutrality: Save Google. Save this lot.

Is this the work of the dastardly DCI Group?

Perhaps not. With grassroots activism this horrific, no wonder Google needed to call in the professionals. ®

Related links

DCI Group at SourceWatch

DCI Group at LobbyWatch

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
Sorry London, Europe's top tech city is Munich
New 'Atlas of ICT Activity' finds innovation isn't happening at Silicon Roundabout
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer
Do the right thing, earn up to 10 years in clink
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.