Twitter lobbies up for fall fights

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Twitter is hiring outside lobbyists for the first time to engage in some of the most high-profile fights facing tech companies in Washington.

The social media platform will work with three different firms across the ideological spectrum, said Nu Wexler, a spokesman for the company. They are Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, The Joseph Group and Millennial Bridge Consulting.

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Twitter will be represented by 10 different lobbyists from Mehlman Castagnetti, including co-founders Bruce Mehlman and David Castagnetti. The firm was one of the top 20 lobbying firms, by revenue, in Washington last year, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. It has advocated for tech companies like Adobe and Hewlett-Packard.

The other two firms are smaller shops that have experience lobbying on tech and telecommunications issues.

Lauren Culbertson, the founder and only registered lobbyist associated with Millennial Bridge, represented the Internet Freedom Business Alliance on matters related to net neutrality earlier this year. She launched the firm in April.

She previously served on Capitol Hill as an aide to Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonGOP senators: Obama bathroom guidance is 'not appropriate' Amateur theatrics: An insult to Africa Dem senator blocks push to tie 'gun ban' to spending bill MORE (R-Ga.).

Kevin Joseph, a former Democratic Hill staffer who works on telecommunications issues, heads The Joseph Group. It has represented newer startups, like Dropbox, and established firms like Comcast.

All three firms will register their contracts with Twitter on Friday, Wexler said.

The firms will be lobbying on four different issues, Wexler said, including net neutrality, surveillance reform, patent reform and reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). All are issues that tech companies have focused on in recent years.

Privacy advocates say they hope to change ECPA to limit the government from reading Americans' emails. Currently, law enforcement agencies are allowed to search through emails without a warrant if they have been stored online for more than 180 days. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hold a Wednesday hearing on the law.

House members were supposed to vote on a patent reform bill in July before Republican leadership removed it from the agenda. House Judiciary Chairman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteSaudis scramble for Washington allies IRS hearing: Five things to watch Overnight Regulation: Supreme Court rejects GOP redistricting challenge MORE (R-Va.) said this week he believed the bill would come to the floor soon, but declined to offer specifics.

Twitter is also a member of the coalition Reform Government Surveillance and of the Internet Association, a trade group.

The firms will be the first outside lobbyists for nine-year-old Twitter. It has two registered lobbyists — and 19 employees total — in its Washington office, Wexler said.

The company has yet to engage in the same kind of major lobbying spending as other Internet companies. Facebook spent $9,340,000 on lobbying in 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and worked with five outside firms. Twitter spent just $310,000 last year.

But the hires coincide with what many consider to be a defining moment for Twitter. In June, it announced that CEO Dick Costolo would leave amid concerns from some investors about the company’s slow user growth. Its board has yet to select his permanent replacement.

The company is engaged in efforts it hopes will make its product appealing to a broader group of users. The service is planning to create pages where users can see Tweets, curated by Twitter employees, related to real-time news events.

Twitter has 316 million monthly active users, compared to the 1.49 billion who use Facebook. It has, however, grown in popularity among many who follow politics in Washington and on the campaign trail — including reporters, operatives and lawmakers.