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Google has spaffed more cash on lobbying this year than Big Cable

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Google has single-handedly outspent Big Cable in terms of lobbying dollars so far in 2014.

The ad giant spent $9.3m compared to the $8.15m spent by the NCTA, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, according to the Open Secrets website, which keeps count.

The NCTA represents Time Warner and Comcast and is run by former FCC chief Michael Powell – so isn’t short of a bob or two.

Along with other Silicon Valley companies, Google likes to position itself as a plucky upstart – an outsider or “disruptor” battling on behalf of the consumer against much bigger and entrenched industries. In fact, its expanding wealth has seen a similar expansion in lobbying.

Not all Google’s lobbying spending is on cable and telco issues. It actually spends more on trying to reform intellectual property laws such as copyright and patents to make them more Google-friendly. Only telecommunications comes second on Google's lobbying list. After that Google lobbies on labour issues and, in the fourth biggest spending category, “consumer product safety”.

Why would Google want to change the law on consumer product safety? One example is the use of Google Glass while driving. States want to ban the wearable HUD, but Google is pushing back hard.

Yet on the other hand, the Open Secrets count isn’t complete. Google also funds over 150 “citizen groups”, trade associations, and friendly academics. This soft spending can have some predictable results. When one of the recipients of Google’s cash, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, produced its annual "Who Has Your Back?" report on technology companies' connivance with government surveillance this year, Google was awarded six out of six stars.

The report didn’t look too hard at the apparently cosy relationship Google has with the spooks, which might have painted a quite different picture.

On other occasions, it appears to have been more successful.

Last year, the UK's copyright minister told MPs Google had better access to No.10 than he had. Google persuaded Prime Minister David Cameron he needed to review the UK's IP laws (presumably to ensure that promising UK startups like er, Luluvise and Impossible.com could flourish). And last week, the founder of a Google-sponsored educational network in the UK resigned, saying she’d been asked not to criticise the network’s sponsors. Google denies having made any such request. ®

Bootnote

The Wall Street Journal has a full summary of Google's lobbying efforts here.

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