Google pours millions into lobbying as decision on antitrust case looms

Google has spent a record $13.1 million on lobbying so far in 2012 as it looks to dissuade federal regulators from suing the company over antitrust allegations.

According to disclosure forms filed Monday, Google spent $4.2 million over the previous three months, in addition to the $8.9 million it had already spent this year. The company set its record for lobbying spending in the first quarter of 2012, when it spent $5 million.

Google spent only $9.7 million in all of 2011, and much less in previous years.

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The Federal Trade Commission is nearing the end of a sweeping antitrust investigation into Google's business practices. People familiar with the case say the commissioners are leaning toward taking action against the company.

The agency is investigating whether Google manipulates its search results to ensure that its own services, such as YouTube, Google Maps and Google Shopping, appear above those of its rivals.

Google's competitors argue that the company shouldn't be allowed to use its dominant search engine — which has about a 65 percent market share — to stifle competition.

The company says there is nothing unfair about its search rankings. Even if the results did boost Google products, the company says, it wouldn’t be illegal.

Susan Molinari, a former Republican congresswoman and current head of Google's Washington office, led the company's lobbying efforts on competition and antitrust issues. Pablo Chavez, the company's director of public policy, Seth Webb, a former House GOP aide, and Stewart Jeffries, a former lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee Republicans, all registered to lobby Congress, the White House and the FTC.

FairSearch.org, a coalition of Google's competitors urging regulators to sue the company, spent $100,000 in the third quarter to hire lobbying firms Mercury/Clark & Weinstock and The Glover Park Group.

Microsoft, a leading member of FairSearch and one of Google's most vocal critics, spent $1.9 million on lobbying in the quarter.

The Justice Department's lawsuit against Microsoft in the late 1990s drained the company of resources and led to an exodus of talented employees. In an ironic twist, Microsoft's misfortune helped pave the way for Google's rise.

Although the looming antitrust case is likely the most threatening regulatory issue facing Google, the company also lobbied on a host of other topics during the quarter.

Google disclosed that it lobbied on cybersecurity legislation, intellectual property issues, technology education, immigration, spectrum policy and tax reform. The company, which is developing driverless cars, lobbied Congress and the White House on "autonomous vehicle technology."

Google has attracted frequent criticism from lawmakers over its handling of users' personal information, and the company disclosed that it lobbied on privacy, data security and online tracking issues.

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