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Following the money in L.A.’s proposed Google email deal

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Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 5:25 pm

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L.A. City council is wrestling with a proposal to shift the city’s 30,000 email users and other computer applications to a system provided by Google.  Anytime a deal like this is under consideration, it’s worth checking the money trail.

I examined records kept by the Los Angeles Ethics Commission to see who paid what to whom.

The actual contract under discussion would be with Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC), which will be moving the city on to Google’s servers in a so-called "cloud computing" system.  Google’s Terms of Service (TOS) show up as an appendix to the main contract.  It’s as if you bought a new house and signed the contract with the moving company, not the home’s seller, but I digress.

To help deal with City Hall, CSC hired the lobbying firm Arnie Berghoff & Associates on Jan. 1. Through June 30, the Falls Church, VA, company has paid $8,500 to the lobbyists. According to official filings, Berghoff was hired to:

"Help CSC to navigate and understand the Los Angeles procurement processes; aid in developing and implementing a local marketig and visibility plan; aid in proposal development and in negotiating contract terms and conditions with the City of L.A."

On July 1, Google hired the lobbying firm of Ek & Ek to represent its interests. Expenditures for the third quarter haven’t been posted yet.

The proposal was considered on Aug. 11  by Council’s Information Technology and General Services Committee, chaired by Tony Cardenas.  Cardenas received a $500 campaign contribution from Ek & Ek on Nov. 16, 2005.  Berghoff contributed $500 on Nov. 28, 2005.

The proposal heads next to the Budget and Finance Committee chaired by Bernard Parks.  Parks received a $500 contribution from Arnie Berghoff’s wife, Linda, on Feb. 26, 2007.

Of course it’s not only Google and its team that throw cash around.  Arch-rival Microsoft also wanted to provide the city’s new email solution and representatives have been turing up at the ITGS meetings.  Microsoft’s reports they’ve spent $121,800 with Guerra & Associates since 2003  for help on "procurement issues."  The company reports spending $6,725 in each of the first two quarters of 2009.

Whatever happened to submitting a bid and having it simply judged on the merits?

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 362 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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