The Poké-lobby comes to Washington

The Poké-lobby comes to Washington
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Lawmakers? Gotta catch ’em all. 

That could well be the motto for The Pokémon Company International’s new lobbying team at Greenberg Traurig.

The Pokémon Company has hired Washington lobbyists for the first time amid the explosive growth of Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game that has become a global sensation.

The disclosure forms do not specifically mention the game, stating only that lobbyists will be talking with congressional offices and monitoring executive branch and Capitol Hill actions on “technology and intellectual property.”

But it’s clear the company has reason to be prepared for controversies about the game, which involves players roaming around, cellphones raised, looking for virtual Pokémon. 

As Pokémon Go has risen in popularity, reports have highlighted the game’s potential downsides, such as distracted drivers crashing their cars while playing and pedophiles exploiting the game’s popularity among children.

The governor of New York earlier this week instructed his state’s corrections agency to restrict sex offenders on parole from using Pokémon Go. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he worried about the ability of players to put down a “lure” that draws Pokémon and players to a certain spot. 

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also raised questions about the game, including how it is affecting data usage on mobile phones and whether there are safeguards in place to protect privacy. 

Members of Congress were outraged that the game was being played inside the Holocaust Museum and sent a letter to the developer asking that it be disabled in the building. The app had turned the museum into a PokéStop, a place where players can gather the items they need to catch Pokémon. 

While the Pokemon Company has licensed the use of characters in the Pokémon Go game, the game is completely owned and operated by Niantic, a Google spinoff.

The Pokémon Company, in addition to managing oversight over all Pokémon products and events, helps bring the game to platforms other than the card games and Nintendo products. Nintendo has a roughly 32 percent stake in the company.

The Pokémon Company International is the U.S.-based subsidiary, located in Washington state, for its Japanese parent, the Pokémon Company. 

Many Japanese-based companies do not hire lobbyists through their United States subsidiaries or have political action committees because of a business culture that generally views those communications as taboo.  

The lobbyists on the Pokémon account include former Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.).