Q. How much did Google just spend applying political pressure in the US? A. $4.6 million
Top of the pops again among tech giant rivals
Moneybags Google has topped the list of tech-giant political lobbyists again, spending $4.62m in the past three months alone in Washington DC and elbowing its way into an enormous range of issues.
That's according to a declaration filed by Google that companies are legally obliged to submit to US Congress. The multimillion-dollar total is, essentially, the wages and expenses bill of Google's political pressure unit.
From 1 April to 30 June this year, Google's nine main lobbyists set up meetings in the capital covering everything from online advertising to patent reform to cybersecurity to drone and unmanned vehicle policies.
The spending makes Google one of the top ten biggest lobbying organizations in Washington: the top being the US Chamber of Commerce, and the rest rounded out by four medical industry companies, plus Boeing, General Electric, the National Association of Realtors, and Business Roundtable.
In the tech sector, Google's $4.62m overshadows Facebook's $2.62m and Amazon's $2.15m. But while Facebook and Amazon's spending in DC has increased, Google's was down very slightly from the year-ago quarter and also down from the record $5.47m that it spent in the first quarter of 2015.
The sheer depth of issues covered by Google's lobbying team is a sure sign of the search engine giant's expansion into every facet of modern life. More than 50 topics are formally listed in its official report, some covering specific legislation such as the Innovation Act, the Patent Act, amendments to the Privacy Act, USA Freedom Act, and Data Stored Abroad Act.
Others are broader, including many aspects of cybersecurity, online advertising, anything to do with online privacy, and international trade deals. A few Google sub-projects also feature, including its work on unmanned vehicles, drones, and spectrum allocations for its new smartphone plans.
One big issue that makes but a single mention in the report was that of net neutrality – noted down as "open internet access." When the FCC passed its rules back in February, a significant last-minute change had been made solely on the receipt of a letter from Google, sparking some eyebrow-raising from one the FCC's Commissioners.
A subsequent investigation by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Google had met up with the White House on average once a week for the past five years. And we dug into a long history of behind-the-scenes connections between the company and the Obama Administration.
As things stand, Google is on course to spent its largest ever sum on lobbyists. Last year it spent $16.8m, but its all-time record was in 2012 when it spent $18.2m. So far this year Google has spent $9.7m, so if it continues on the same path, it is due to spend $19.4m. And that buys you a lot of influence in Washington. ®