High-profile lobbyists earned of a Google

Thursday, February 23rd 2012. | Internet News

Google logo, wallpaperGoogle has become embroiled in a slew of issues in Washington in recent months, from Internet piracy and online gambling to privacy controls and antitrust claims.

Now it has a high-profile lobbyist to help it navigate the federal waters.

The Internet giant announced on Thursday that it has hired Susan Molinari, the former Republican congresswoman from New York, as its Washington lobbyist in a move that seems designed to strengthen its influence among conservatives in the rough-and-tumble world of K Street.

Ms. Molinari is “a true trailblazer,” Google’s senior vice president, David Drummond, said in announcing the move. “Her enthusiasm for our technology and its potential to change lives will be a real asset to our team in the Americas,” he said.

A lobbyist since 1999, she replaces Alan Davidson, who announced last year that he was leaving Google after building its Washington lobbying shop into an influential $11 million-a-year operation.

With about a dozen in-house lobbyists and more than 100 outside lobbyists that it uses, the company ranks as one of the biggest spenders among corporate lobbyists, and it has moved more aggressively in recent years to shape dozens of pieces of legislation that affect its search engine and Internet businesses.

While Google has won many of its legislative battles, it has come under rising attack from privacy proponents, antitrust regulators, movie industry advocates and others in Washington who see its influence over the Internet as too great. Indeed, one of Ms. Molinari’s first challenges may be to recast Google’s image as something other than a near-omnipotent Internet force.

Some lobbying analysts saw as telling the company’s shift to Ms. Molinari, a longtime Washington insider with relatively little experience in Internet affairs, from Mr. Davidson, a former computer scientist who came to Google from the Center for Democracy and Technology, a policy group that pushes for an open Internet.

Ms. Molinari, in contrast to Mr. Davison, is “an experienced Washington hand” who has represented a wide range of blue-chip corporate interests inside capital corridors, said the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit research group that analyzes lobbying.

As a former congresswoman from Staten Island who is married to Bill Paxon — another former Republican representative from New York — Ms. Molinari also boasts extensive ties to the party’s establishment. She has donated more than $200,000 exclusively to Republican candidates, while Mr. Davidson gave political contributions in much smaller amounts and mainly to Democrats, the Sunlight Foundation noted.

Google, like many corporations, has looked to strengthen its Republican ties since the party took over control of the House last year.

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