Google lobbying explodes in first quarter

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Google brought on former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.) in February to head its public policy operations in North and South America. Molinari served in Congress for seven years and held a seat on the House Budget Committee.

The surge in spending comes as Google is under increasing scrutiny for changes to its privacy policies and its handling of private user information.

Most recently, the Federal Communications Commission fined Google $250,000 for allegedly impeding an investigation into the company's collection of private data from unprotected Wi-Fi networks.

The records show Google lobbied on privacy legislation, such as data breach notification requirements and rules about online tracking. The company also lobbied on cybersecurity legislation, including the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

Google played a central role in killing the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in January. In addition to blacking out its logo and gathering more than 7 million signatures against the anti-piracy bills, Google engaged in traditional lobbying, such as meeting with lawmakers, to make its case.  

The company also worked on measures to loosen immigration restrictions. Many technology companies argue that it should be easier for high-skilled immigrants to work in the U.S.

Google, which is developing a self-driving car, lobbied the House and the Transportation Department on "autonomous vehicle technology," according to the report.

The Federal Trade Commission is currently investigating whether Google's search formula violates antitrust laws. The company disclosed that it lobbied the House and Senate on antitrust and labor issues last quarter.

Facebook also dramatically ramped up its lobbying in the first quarter of 2012. The social networking company spent $650,000 on lobbying, an increase of 183 percent over the first quarter of 2011.

Facebook lobbied on the anti-piracy bills, online advertising rules and privacy legislation, according to its filing.

Apple, which has a low-profile in Washington considering its size, spent just $500,000, a 10 percent increase over the first quarter of 2011.

Microsoft spent $1.8 million in the quarter, Hewlett-Packard spent $1.6 million and IBM spent $1.5 million. 

But those figures still pale in comparison to the telecom giants. AT&T spent $7 million, and Verizon spent $4.5 million in the quarter, modest increases over last year. 

Comcast spent $4.5 million, a 22 percent increase over the first quarter of 2011.

--Updated at 4:02 p.m.

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