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Is Google using its purchasing power in politics?

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Wed, Nov 12, 2008 at 3:08 pm

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As Google grows into the behemoth of personal computing that it apparently wants to become, the firm has apparently decided to get bigger in another realm: political influence.  As we recently noted, Google made its first donations directly to politicians in its home state of California in October, just as public scrutiny of the company has increased.

As Dan Morain points out in the LA Times, these contributions are made as more and more issues of concern to Google are appearing in the California Legislature:

In September, California lawmakers approved a measure that granted
the computer industry an exemption from paying overtime to workers
earning not less than $75,000.

Google’s lobbyists worked on the bill, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed
it later in September. A month later, Google donated $25,000 to him.
That was the largest single donation Google has given to a California
politician.

And it’s not just California, the company has increased its role in federal lobbying, too. Joelle Tessler of the Associated Press reports that Microsoft still spends more than Google on lobbying:

But Google is catching up. The company spent $2.1 million on
federal lobbying during the first nine months of this year, compared
with $1.5 million for all of 2007. And while not all big technology
companies have chosen to play active roles in the nation’s capital,
Google wants to be a key participant.

It’s not surprising that a company the size of Google is diving deeper into the muck of campaign contributions and political influence, but it is a shame.  The innovators from Mountain View seem to be saying that the old game of special interest influence is the best way to go.

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