Google’s fourth-quarter lobbying bill triples to US$3.76 million

By Michael Liedtke, AP

SAN FRANCISCO–Google’s U.S. lobbying bill more than tripled to US$3.76 million in the fourth quarter as the Internet search leader fought proposed changes to online piracy laws and sought to influence a wide range of other issues that could affect its fortunes.

The amount that Google Inc. spent making its political points from October through December is by far the company’s highest lobbying tab for any three-month period since Google’s Washington office opened in 2005. The total compared with a lobbying budget of US$1.24 million during the final three months of 2010 and US$2.38 million in the third quarter of 2011. For all of 2011, Google spent US$9.7 million on political persuasion, nearly doubling from US$5.2 million in 2010. The company disclosed its fourth-quarter lobbying figures in documents filed late Friday with the U.S. House clerk’s office. Google’s lobbying expenses have been rising steadily against a backdrop of intensified U.S. government scrutiny of the company’s acquisitions and business practices. The focus has been prompted by complaints alleging that Google is abusing its dominance of the lucrative Internet search market to stifle competition and muscle its way into other markets. As a foil, Google last summer hired a dozen lobbing firms to supplement the team that it already employed in its Washington office. The bills coming in from those firms contributed to the sharp rise in Google’s fourth-quarter lobbying expenses, according to the company.

Google’s emphasis on lobbying mirrors what Microsoft Corp. did during the late 1990s while the U.S. Justice Department pursued an antitrust case asserting the software marker had unfairly bundled its dominant Windows operating system with key personal-computer applications. Microsoft eventually thwarted the government’s attempt to break up the company, but not before years of legal wrangling that included a high-profile trial. With that case behind it, Microsoft now spends far less on lobbying than Google. In the fourth quarter, Google’s lobbying expenses doubled Microsoft’s US$1.88 million bill. For all of 2011, Microsoft’s lobbying tab totaled US$7.3 million.