With Congress and privacy watchdogs breathing down its neck, Google is stepping up its lobbying inside the Beltway -- spending more than Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft combined in the first three months of the year.
Google spent $5.03 million on lobbying from January through March, a record for the Internet giant, up 240 percent from the $1.48 million it spent on lobbyists in the year-earlier period, according to disclosures filed Friday with the clerk of the House.
By comparison, Apple spent $500,000; Facebook, $650,000; Amazon, $870,000; and Microsoft, $1.79 million.
For years, Google had a reputation for indifference inside the Beltway. It took Google until May 2005 to set up a presence in Washington and, even then, its headquarters consisted of a one-man lobbying shop in Maryland.
By 2012, however, Google had become the subject of almost constant scrutiny from regulators, competitors and privacy advocates. Most recently, federal regulators hit Google with a $25,000 fine for impeding an investigation into its data collection practices.
"Google claims its motto is 'Don't be evil,' but the amount of cash they are throwing around demonstrates an astounding cynicism," said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's privacy project director.
"When they first came to Washington, they were an itty-bitty search engine," said Art Brodsky of Public Knowledge, a digital rights group. "The more Google expands, the more it gets into other people's business."
NEW YORK TIMES