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Google's New Lobbying Power in Washington 167

Posted by samzenpus
from the one-nation-under-google dept.
*SECADM writes "Learning from Microsoft's error, Google is building a lobbying power house in Washington." From the Washington Post article: Two years ago, Google was on the verge of making that Microsoft-like error. Davidson, then a 37-year-old former deputy director of the Center for Democracy & Technology, was the search-engine company's sole staff lobbyist in Washington. As recently as last year, Google co-founder Sergey Brin had trouble getting meetings with members of Congress. To change that, Google went on a hiring spree and now has 12 lobbyists and lobbying-related professionals on staff here — more than double the size of the standard corporate lobbying office — and is continuing to add people.
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Google's New Lobbying Power in Washington

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  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RevRigel (90335) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:48PM (#19589493)
    He's just one US citizen. If he wants to have influence on Congress he can vote like the rest of us. The fact that he can't get personal meetings with them should be surprising or distressing, regardless of his net worth, given how difficult it would be for everyone else.
    • Re:So? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gartogg (317481) <sdaman@mi[ ]pring.om.tld ['nds' in gap]> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:11PM (#19589629) Homepage Journal
      Actually, I've never had a problem getting a meeting with my representative - have you ever tried to do so? It would be a shame if you were just talking out of you ass...
      • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Short Circuit (52384) <mikemol@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:36PM (#19590159) Homepage Journal

        my representative
        Key point: YOUR representative.

        Lobbying is about influencing more than just the representative from your district and the senators from your state. Could I get a meeting with my Representative Pete Hoekstra? Possibly. Could I get a meeting with my Senator Debbie Stabenow? Maybe, if she didn't prefer to ignore her constituents. Could I get a meeting with my Senator Carl Levin? Probably not, he hasn't responded to my letters since the Democrats became the majority.

        But even if I were to convince all three that we needed to make law the presence of my product in every household, Levin and Stabenow are only two Senators in one hundred, and Hoekstra is only one Representative in several hundred.

        Limiting your influence to those for whom you are a voting constituent won't get you very far. That's why corporations have lobbyists.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by smilindog2000 (907665)
        Heck, I'd settle for an automated reply e-mail. AFAIK, my rep completely ignores me, but given that many here on slashdot also ignore me, I shouldn't be surprised. The only two issues I've ever raised up the flag pole to my rep is 1) support for a law that would ban discrimination against IP packets based on origin, and 2) redefining the definition of rad-hard chips to take into account reality at 90nm and below, so that we can have a sane rad-hard electronics industry in the US. Maybe if I were in the h
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        "It would be a shame if you were just talking out of you ass..."

        But that is a requirement for members of Congress.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by crayz (1056)
      Except now they have a lobbying firm and presumably no trouble meeting with legislators. Is that not a serious problem with our system?
    • by couchslug (175151)
      "If he wants to have influence on Congress he can vote like the rest of us."

      That's not enough. My vote alone isn't shite.
      My vote and those of many NRA members, represented by lobbyists to remind Congress we exist, DOES matter.
    • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ibag (101144) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:22PM (#19589697)
      He's not just one citizen, though. It has nothing to do with his net worth either. He's in charge of a company large enough that congress holds hearings and proposes bills that not only directly affect his company, but sometimes affect only his company. If 535 men were discussing whether to restrict what only you were doing or whether to help only your biggest competitors, you would be entitled to an audience with them too.

      Or are his opinions about net neutrality and Chinese Internet censorship no more important than yours when congress discusses them?
      • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by rtb61 (674572) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:43PM (#19589817) Homepage
        That is just really daft and probably the worst possible reason I have ever heard. The company has thousands of shareholders and hundreds of major investors and thousands of employees who also have a voice, how many times should the voice of that company be repeated over and over again to the exclusion of the general public.

        He is just one citizen, with absolutely no more or less entitlement to access to politicians then any other citizen. If point of fact he has already well and truly profited by the system and the only reason for further access is to further inflate their personal profit. All people are created equally and should be treated as such in the eyes of the law and by politicians. It truly disgusts me that anybody thinks already wealthy people should have greater access than the rest of the community to politicians so as to further bloat their wealth.

        In fact the system should be designed specifically that no individual has far greater influence than any other citizen. Further to that laws should be implemented to ensure any discussions between public companies and politicians or those who have influence beyond the voter should be made public, so the citizens at large can form their own opinions about the corporations the drive their own self serving agenda's and the politicians that listen and well as what those politicians agree too.

        • Re:So? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Short Circuit (52384) <mikemol@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:47PM (#19590235) Homepage Journal

          The company has thousands of shareholders and hundreds of major investors and thousands of employees who also have a voice
          The shareholders and investors (Technically, shareholders are investors, but we're not talking about accounting here...) depend on Google to carry its own interests. The point of buying shares in a company is typically to take advantage of that company's good market and management, not to take on an active role in aiding that company. It's just not cost effective to do it that way; the cost of effective lobbying* far exceeds the gain in stock value one might see as a result.

          * Writing a letter and making phone calls is not an effective way to influence your representatives. I've written hundreds of letters and made around twenty phone calls to my representatives, and I only know of one time where one of my representative voted in favor of my position. $2,000 from a PAC is more likely to change their vote than a fifty cent letter or a free email and fax. I still write, though, because I have to do something, don't I?
          • by Colin Smith (2679)

            I still write, though, because I have to do something, don't I?
            Join a party that most closely represents your views and get out campaigning. Even if it's just leafleting.

             
          • Re:So? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday June 21, 2007 @10:31AM (#19594367) Homepage Journal

            $2,000 from a PAC is more likely to change their vote than a fifty cent letter or a free email and fax. I still write, though, because I have to do something, don't I?

            This brings up a point that I've been thinking about for a while. Bear with me for a moment while I walk you throught my thought process.

            If the regular constituents each put up a buck towards a given issue/bill they care about, we could *easily* outspend the PACs by an order or magnitude. There are a lot more of us. That leads me to suggest that when you write that letter, you should include a check for $5 -- if all letter-writers did that, their contributions would probably come close to matching the PACs.

            The problem with that idea is that if you do that, the representative has your $5 whether he votes the way you like or not. PACs have the advantage that they're offering lare enough quantities of money that they can negotiate: "We have this donation for you, Senator, assuming that you'll support our cause". I don't know that they can directly say things like "We'll contribute $2K to your campaign if you vote for bill X", but they can certainly imply it (and maybe they can say it!).

            You could try to do the same with your small donation, but it seems much less likely to actually get the representative's attention. That brings me to my idea: I wonder if it would be possible to set up a sort of non-PAC whose only goal is to improve the bargaining position of voters. This non-PAC wouldn't actually accept and give donations, and it wouldn't have positions on any specific issues. Rather, it would be a sort of an escrow fund to accumulate individual voter contributions, and forward them en-masse to specific candidates who showed support for the voters' key issues. It would also provide reports to the representatives of the donations its holding and the issues/bills that are important to the donors.

            I imagine this system as a web site. You register your name and address, pick your issue/bill, state what your position is, what representative you want to influence, in what time frame you'd like to see action, and use Paypal or whatever to provide a donation. The system would aggregate your donation with like-minded voters and send a letter to the representative (while probably also sending a similar letter on behalf of voters who have the opposite position). If the representative acts the way you want, the system would disburse the money to the representative, filing any needed paperwork on your behalf (if any, I don't think there is) and send you a receipt documenting your donation for tax purposes. If the representative votes "wrong", or fails to act within your specified time frame, the system would return your money to you and send a letter to the representative pointing out the financial support he/she has lost due to his action or inaction on a particular issue. I think it should be up to the donor to make the final determination of whether or not the representative acted "correctly". The system should probably also allow a representative to make a statement about his/her intent and actions to be distributed to the voters who have pending donations, to help them determine if his/her work is in line with their preferences.

            Such a system feels a lot like buying congressional votes, but I think that's exactly how the system works anyway, just less transparently and less accessibly to the man on the street.

            • I find it absolutely mindboggling that not only has this been advanced as a serious suggestion, but enough people apparently agree with you that you've been modded up to +5 without anyone taking issue with it. Individuals bribing elected representatives is every bit as morally corrupt as companies doing so (and anyone who tried to claim that promising campaign contributions in return for votes on legislation isn't bribery needs to go look up bribery in a dictionary).

              Else what the hell's the point of hav
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Score Whore (32328)

        He's not just one citizen, though. It has nothing to do with his net worth either. He's in charge of a company large enough that congress holds hearings and proposes bills that not only directly affect his company, but sometimes affect only his company. If 535 men were discussing whether to restrict what only you were doing or whether to help only your biggest competitors, you would be entitled to an audience with them too.

        Wait, is this Jesus we're talking about or some businessman? I make latex products an

        • by pravuil (975319)

          Wait, is this Jesus we're talking about or some businessman? I make latex products and latex related products (not really), and congress makes laws that affect my company all the time. There has never been a time when either the senate or the house have considered a law that would affect only Google. Never. You are talking out of your ass.

          Through the sarcasm, you do make a good point though. There's not just one interest vying for attention, there are thousands plus. Some of them disagree on certain issues that would divide the Red Sea. Some come out with sincere motives while there are others that provide realistic goals and opportunities. If morality was truly an issue or even a reasonable goal, whose responsibility is it for these effects to make itself known within the market? Demand is a good motivator for companies to lobby for thing

        • He's not a king, lord, duke, pope, bishop, prince, or queen.
          Well, actually.....
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by emc (19333)
        Or are his opinions about net neutrality and Chinese Internet censorship no more important than yours when congress discusses them?

        No actually, they are no more important. The only difference is that he has more to gain or lose (financially) than I do.

        • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by g_lightyear (695241) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @05:19AM (#19591833) Homepage
          I'm sorry, but I need to call you on that.

          An expert's opinion ought to be worth more than a layman's. If someone goes to congress, in an expert capacity, to discuss an issue, they are not doing so on the grounds of being your average punter - they are doing so under the auspices of fundamental expertise on the issue being raised.

          That is not the same as your mom calling your Senator on the same issue. There's democracy and there's tyrrany of the majority; expertise needs to matter. The whole point of policymakers is that they're *not* the people who are experts on an issue; simply people whose job it is to find the experts on those issues and navigate a policy.
          • An expert's opinion ought to be worth more than a layman's.

            Absolutely. But why are you assuming the poster is any less expert than a corporate executive? Being an expert has to do with your knowledge of a subject, not how much money you have or how many initials come after your name.

            Devon
            • The initials after your name are a "social shorthand" that (in the US, at least) symbolize expert knowledge of a subject. So, in a certain sense, they do denote expertise. ;)

              • Unfortunately, all too often that subject is "getting through a decade long college course" and not something useful. There's no guarantee they're an expert in the topic at hand, or any topic, really.

                There are exceptions to this that come to mind... DDS = dentist, MD = medical doctor, PE = professional engineer, CPA = certified public accountant. But anyone claiming to be an expert because they have "Ph D" after their name is likely to be what I described before.
                • They typically qualify as an expert within the field that the degree applies to. A PhD denotes that you are an expert in the general sense. Philosophically, you are well grounded with the norms and established theory of your specialized field, with concentrated knowledge within your region of research.

                  The main reason specialized degrees (MD, JD, etc) exists is largely historical and political (see the politics of the Church & University circa 15th century, and the history of professional organizations)

                  • What about Noam Chomsky? He is an expert on American foreign policy, but has a PhD in linguistics.
          • by emc (19333)
            Sergey Brin is an expert on Chinese Censorship?

            No, he is a man with a whole lot of money to be made by limiting Chinese Censorship.

            There's democracy and there's tyrrany of the majority; expertise needs to matter.
            You left out what we have here, which is governance by corporate interests. Google is as much an expert at these topics as the RIAA/MPAA is at Intellectual Property rights. The only difference here is that Google is doubleplus good, while RIAA/MPAA is doubleplus bad. Both organizations are worki
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RealGrouchy (943109)

        He's not just one citizen, though...He's in charge of a company

        One citizen, two "persons".

        - RG>
    • regardless of his net worth, given how difficult it would be for everyone else.

      given his net worth and in comparison to his peers and competitors of similar stature, it would be foolish to compare himself to "everyone else" when it comes to him not being able to get personal meetings with congressmen. If you want to have a qualms with this, take it up with the system he's trying to play in instead of the man himself.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jlarocco (851450)

        I think the GP *was* complaining about the system "the man" is playing in.

        And if he's not, I am.

        I understand that Congressmen and Senators are busy people, but if Sergey Brin wants to talk to one of them, he can shut the fuck up and make an appointment like everybody else. The fact that he founded a company and has a lot of money shouldn't be relevant in this situation, and it's disappointing that our representatives think it is.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Puff of Logic (895805)
      I'm telling you people, this is just a harbinger of what's to come. A thousand years from now, as the Google empire reigns with an iron fist over the cringing masses of humanity, records will tell of that legendary sage Puff of Logic and his predictions of Google's rise to empire!
      • I'm telling you people, this is just a harbinger of what's to come. A thousand years from now, as the Google empire reigns with an iron fist over the cringing masses of humanity, records will tell of that legendary sage Puff of Logic and his predictions of Google's rise to empire!
        It won't matter what the records say, because Evil Google won't index them anyway.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Savage-Rabbit (308260)

      He's just one US citizen. If he wants to have influence on Congress he can vote like the rest of us. The fact that he can't get personal meetings with them should be surprising or distressing, regardless of his net worth, given how difficult it would be for everyone else.

      I'm sure I'll be punished for this with lots of negative modding but it's just to much fun to mutate some dusty Marxist theory beyond all recognition:

      Why would the fact that people can't get personal meetings with members of Congress unless they have a high net monetary worth be distressing? In a pure capitalist meritocracy human worth is measured in money and access to the people's elected representatives is also prioritized according to the wealth of the citizen in question. Come to think of it in a pure

    • by mwvdlee (775178)
      I can't decide what surprises me the most about the US system; the fact that you have professional lobbyists or the fact that it's legal. Actually, the real surprise is probably that it seems to work. Any representative with a shred of moral decency would have a blacklist of all lobbyists and ban them from communicating with him/her.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      He's just one US citizen. If he wants to have influence on Congress he can vote like the rest of us. The fact that he can't get personal meetings with them should be surprising or distressing, regardless of his net worth, given how difficult it would be for everyone else.

      Uhm. He's representing a 8000+ employee company that plays crucial role on the Internet (despite the low lock-in effect, Google is a core part of the Internet as of right now, and has been for the last, like 7-8 years or so).

      That's like say
  • Lobbyist. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jshriverWVU (810740) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:49PM (#19589499)
    Besides the typical point of view that Lobbyist are basically rich people with an agenda paying off congressman to get legislation passed in their favor. What is the real "legal" definition of what a lobbyist is supposed to do? You'd think if their sole purpose is to pay off people it would be illegal. Any pro's/con's in this?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573)
      Well, we are talking about Google here, right? Let's ask them how Google defines a lobbyist [google.com] and what they think are the pros and cons of lobbyists [google.com].

      What better source than straight from the horse's mouth? ;-)
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons (302214)
        Those are Google searches - not the definitions or opinions of Google itself (or it's constituent personell).
        • by coolGuyZak (844482)
          The GP is modded insightful, which is outright wrong. While the GP may be funny, he conflates a google search with google's opinion. The parent post points this out, and is modded flamebait? The parent should be modded insightful or interesting, not the GP.
    • What sort of black/white world view do you have? The main point of a lobbyist is to talk to a politician to make sure he/she understands whatever the lobbyist is trying to get across. Now campaign funding might look like paying off said politician and there are rules about that. And I'm not saying these rules work or not, but the main point is TALKING.

      And believe it or not, YOU can talk to your congressman as well. The other day, I read in the news that my congressman (a woman) was spouting off what I th
    • It's a good counterpoint to the RIAA lobbyists. At least Google will be more likely to lobby against excessive controls on things like information sharing. They would certainly be a strong voice for net neutrality. Google at least has the incentive to fight for positive things like this.
      • by Kalriath (849904)
        Um, why is controls on Information Sharing "Bad" if Google disagrees with it, but "OMG Greatest Thing Ever" if, say, Microsoft or AOL disagree with it? I would prefer MORE controls on Information Sharing, not LESS.

        You can rest assured, Google will fight against such things as Privacy Protection Laws, and Data Retention Restriction laws. Heaven forbid they not be allowed to retain 75 years of your personal data to mine.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Perhaps I could have worded that better, with more detail of what I meant. I meant sharing information with the public in general. Issues like (copyrighted) songs being played in the background of a YouTube video for example, or the use of thumbnails to copyrighted images have come up in legal controversies. I meant information sharing in the sense of information generally being free (and shared), as opposed to overly controlled.

          No I did not mean information sharing like with 3rd party cookie. Sorry, I shou
          • by Kalriath (849904)
            Ah, that clears a few things up. That was really confusing before. It's hard not to think you mean personal information sharing when you look at the privacy focus literally every Google discussion eventually rolls around to.
    • by JimBobJoe (2758) <swiftheartNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:36PM (#19589773)
      What is the real "legal" definition of what a lobbyist is supposed to do?

      A professional who informs democratically elected representatives about issues.

      While these professionals have to be paid somehow, and the root of their pay makes them beholden to some interest or another, what a legislator needs to do and understand is simply too complex without receiving counsel and guidance otherwise.

      I live in Columbus near the Ohio statehouse and since I have a lot of knowledge about identity theft, privacy and driver's license security issues, I often show up at the statehouse and give testimony on a bill. I'm essentially a college student with a job with no set hours, so it's not hard for me to do. I can meet up with a legislator or make a committee meeting (which are always held during the day) with no trouble. People who might have the knowledge or expertise but have regular jobs will find that difficult.

      But what I do I do for free, because I want to see Ohio have better laws on things that I feel passionate about or interest me. I can only devote so much time to it.

      The other day, I testified on an identity theft bill. I was talking about a major problem with some state websites and I wanted to show the committee what the problem is--so I asked if there were a projector available to hook my laptop to.

      The assistant to the chair of the committee said he's never asked for a projector before--and he's done the job for 3 years now.

      That scared me. It doesn't take much computer knowledge to put together a powerpoint presentation, and we all know (stereotype alert) that low-tech types like powerpoint. It implied to me that the people who would often speak in front of this committee didn't have a very good knowledge of computing.

      I did get my projector, and made my presentation (which included talk about "brute force" techniques.) The next week, a state senator's office called--the senator read my written testimony and asked during that committee hearing what was the difference between brute forcing a password and phishing. No one was there who could answer the question.

      It's clear to me that Ohio needs to have a professional lobbyist walking around the statehouse who knows computer security issues and who could spend his time getting legislators up to speed. While lobbyists are often political mercenaries, they do fulfill a certain role that no one else can.
      • Interesting read, especially since I live in Toledo :) Keep up the great work.
      • Contact the governer see if they can create a Chief Computer Advisor position to appoint you to. Some of those senators you have helped might be able to help you out.

        • by drix (4602)
          Are you suggesting he lobby the governor for a favor? :-) Touche.
      • by lawpoop (604919) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:38PM (#19590179) Homepage Journal
        As a fellow Ohioan, I am glad to hear that you are working on my side!

        Perhaps, for the legislator's benefit, you could put together a document that demonstrates the difference between brute-force and phishing. Something like this might work well both on print-out and in power-point:

        <H1>Brute-force Attack</H1>

        Welcome to Online Banking! Please enter your username password:

        Username: buckeye_joe@internet.com
        Password: ******
        Wrong password! Please try again.
        Password: ******
        Wrong password! Please try again.
        Password: ******
        Wrong password! Please try again.
        Password: ******
        Password accepted! Your balance is $125.00.


        <H1>Phising Attack</H1>

        From: criminal_in_in_diguise@russia.net
        To: buckeye_joe@internet.com
        Subject: Online Banking Password Maintenance


        Message:
        Hello! This is your bank. We've recently done some maintenance and upgrades to our online banking website. However, we've accidentally deleted your password. Please send us your password as soon as possible, in order for us to assure the outstanding customer service you've come to expect from us!
      • "While lobbyists are often political mercenaries, they do fulfill a certain role that no one else can."

        There used to be this quaint notion that the public service would answer a politicians questions "without fear or favour", and some public servants still adhere to that notion (eg: Jim Hansen [wikipedia.org]).

        The answers a politicaian gets from a lobbyist will by definition "favour" his employer and the lobbyist is (also by definition) working under the "fear" of losing his job.
        • The laws and regulations on the books are so complex, and the nation so diverse, that unintended consequences are a frequent result of anything the government changes. The civil service is on the whole a bunch of smart, hard-working folk, but even with such a large government there is just no possible way they could hold expertise on every subject under the sun. Who's going to know (or care) about the implications of every new law and regulation for left-handed widget makers? Pretty much no one but the left
          • Oh I agree the public service themselves can not be expected to know everything...BUT...I would expect them to know how to find a an answser. However when the "left-handed widget maker" can routinely bypass the public service, the politician is effectively "cut off" from reality (often willingly).
    • by evilviper (135110)

      What is the real "legal" definition of what a lobbyist is supposed to do?

      Every citizen has the constitutional right to lobby their government. That is, to state their opinions on issues to their representatives, saying what they want them to do.

      Like anything else, it has been corrupted, because whoever can spend the most money, can pay the most people to lobby for the issues they want. And, when big money gets that close to those in power, bribes are the natural result.

  • democracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wall0159 (881759) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:55PM (#19589543)
    It's a sad indictment of politicians that they need lobbyists to tell them what to think, rather than going out and actually talking to their constituents. Democracy is supposedly representative of the people - the skewing of this system towards serving only the wealthiest corporations is only going to take us to bad places.
  • by Will the Chill (78436) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @09:57PM (#19589561) Homepage
    Googling-Money Oogling-Paige Congressional Overlords!

    -WtC
  • Do No Evil -> To Be as Evil as Everyone else. But what can you expect from public companies anyways, and an American system thats no more democratic than a banana republic anyways.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)
      Hiring lobbyist doesn't make a company 'Evil', it makes it smart.
      To determine if they are evil look at what they are lobbing for.
      Perhaps if more people learned that, they6would get together and hire there own lobbyists.

      You want to add a speed bump to your street? you go talk to the city. AKA lobbying.
      You want congress to take steps towards something you want, you write a letter. AKA lobby. Hell you might even be able to pay someone a few bucks to talk to a congress person instead of a letter.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Google's well-known motto is "Don't Be Evil", not "Do No Evil".

      It seems people use the latter more frequently than the former now, which is a pet peeve of mine. It's an easy mistake to make, but they're not at all the same thing. In some decisions you're forced to choose the lesser of multiple evils. For example, on the China censorship issue, you could easily have said Google is doing evil no matter regardless of what they did -- do they help enforce an evil government policy, or do they hurt users in C
  • by jorghis (1000092) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @10:42PM (#19589811)
    *gasp* Google paying out the nose for influence in Washington? Its almost like they are your standard multi billion international corporation.

    Lets give it a rest already, this doesnt make Google evil. It just means that they are like any other company which is something nonfanboys have known all along. Do we need to see a headline every time a tech company hires a handful of lobbyists? What makes Google special?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by joeytmann (664434)
      What kinda flawed thinking is that? If you are going to have a holier than thou attitude, you better be holier than thou. If you are going to do the same bullshit all the major corps do, then you are a hypocrite and in my opinion just as bad, if not worse, than a "evil" company.

      If you want to change the system, start with yourself and get others to follow your lead. You don't change the system by taking advantage of its flaws, you become apart of it.
    • by JimDaGeek (983925)

      What makes Google special?

      Not special, but they do stand out. When Google started, they were "different". Young, full of ideas and most importantly, they attracted tech geeks because of their "do no evil" motto. A lot of people thought, hey a big company that won't just be another money grubbing corporation with no ethics!

      Now, we see how Google has become what they appeared to be against, another big money grubby corp with no ethics. If Google really held to the motto of "do no evil", they wouldn

      • by Blakey Rat (99501)
        Yeah, Microsoft was the same way when they started out. Probably IBM, too, but I'm not that old.

        Welcome to Reality 101: You can't be a successful business without being a business. That is, doing all those things businesses have to do... keep a legal department and lobbyists on staff, for instance.
  • Would be very useful, Google. Maybe one of those nifty "email new search results" to give us heads up on potentially destructive politics?
  • Two years ago, Google was on the verge of making that Microsoft-like error. Blah...blah... Google went on a hiring spree and now has 12 lobbyists and lobbying-related professionals on staff here -- more than double the size of the standard corporate lobbying office -- and is continuing to add people.

    Um...what was Microsoft's "error"? Are you telling me that Microsoft has never employed lobbyists?

    And why is this news in the first place - you think "net neutrality" was really a term coined, flogged and push

    • by geekoid (135745)
      Microsoft ignored washington for a long time.
    • by jorghis (1000092) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @01:06AM (#19590681)
      Remember the anti-trust thing? Microsoft assumed that as long as they werent some contracter trying to bribe the government for pork they didnt need to lobby. Politicians love to pick on big companies, but they go after the ones that arent spending money lobbying them. MS wasnt sending out bribes so they got attacked by politicians. Google is now recongizing that they have the potential to be hounded for privacy concerns, intellectual property violations, unfairly leveraging their dominant search engine, etc. So they arent going to fall into the same trap MS did and assume that just because they arent breaking any laws grandstanding politicians and their lawyers wont go after them.
    • by SoopahMan (706062)
      Did you read the article...?

      Microsoft got slammed with a massive Antitrust case. The implication is that if they had more than one lobbyist, and had spent the millions they now spend, that case would not have happened.
  • 12 lobbyists. Wow. Sounds like something a Tobacco company would need.
    • Most tobacco companies have hundreds of lobbyists in order to influence a large number of both House and Senate representatives. It's not usually 1:1 either; they gang up on 'em.
  • Don't worry (Score:4, Funny)

    by niceone (992278) * on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:29PM (#19590105) Journal
    Don't worry, Google's lobbying office's motto is: "Do no lobbying".
  • by morganew (194299) * on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:39PM (#19590183)
    and that Lobbyist was me [slashdot.org]! Many of these same questions keep popping up; things like "isn't lobbying bribery"? and "how dare congress listen to him/her!" Basic reality is, Members of Congress listen to their constituents, and issues they think will affect their constituents. And regardless of the opinion of Lessig and other ivory tower "experts", there is not simple answer to the money issue. I would posit that money has never been more important in politics, but 'single source' money has never been less influential.


    Think of it this way, Members have to raise more than ever before, but they can still only raise it in relatively small amounts, so small that on single check for 2,000 has much influence when you consider that an average House race will cost in excess of 2 MILLION.


    This creates a problem. The Representative must raise $2 Million, but has to do it in small amounts. This forces them to spend a disproportionate amount of time raising money, but it also lowers the influence of any one check. Members must spend endless hours calling hundreds of people to ask for $50, $100, maybe even $500 dollar contributions.


    Because money is now a volume activity, all of the slashdotters who want to leap to the incorrect conclusion that all Lobbying is done through payouts from a few lobbyists are living in movieland. The reality is that the lobbyist's true power comes from being able to show a Representative how his support or opposition to a bill will make his Constituents happy - and encourage them vote for him. This reduces the Member's need to raise/spend money, and therefore is considered a great thing to the Member of Congress.


    For example, Slashdotters assume that the only reason anyone would ever support the DMCA is because the RIAA paid them off. Well, as a recent consumerist report showed [slashdot.org], the RIAA hasn't written very many big checks! However, many of the Members of Congress who are the most agressive in support of the DMCA have songwriters, movie studios, themeparks and software companies in their districts. It should come as no surprise that they want to help the people they represent keep their jobs, pay taxes, and generally be happy with their elected officals. As a side note, if you wonder how that article in Consumerist and Slashdot affected Capitol Hill, well, it didn't - because no one called in. I did an informal poll of the members who were on the top of the RIAA list as presented here on slashdot. Guess what? most offices got only a couple of calls. Here on slashdot, the DMCA is treated like it's legislation that will bring about the next anti-christ, but the rest of America doesn't actually care. If you compare the 1 or 2 calls on the DMCA with what happens when the NRA, the WWF, Sierra Club, Right to Life or NOW pushes people to call in, you begin to understand that Members aren't being paid off, they just understand that their constituents aren't appreciably harmed by the DMCA - in fact many have jobs that benefit from it. There has yet to be a Gallup Poll showing the DMCA coming in ahead of HealthCare, the War in Iraq, Education, Social Security or even the proliferation of hangnails as experienced by the elderly. So stop assuming that the only reason anyone could support a position is a payoff.


    SImply put, leaping to the conclusion that anyone who dissagrees with you must be 'bought off' creates a false dicotomy. If it were literally all about the money, then there would be a lot less work for lobbyists!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MilesNaismith (951682)
      Ah the concept of "corporate personhood" rears it's ugly head. You sir, are individually a constituent of your district and a voter. Your corporation is not a constituent or a voter. The rest of it is rationalizing bribery and influence peddling.
    • Puhleeze... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mbstone (457308) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @12:43AM (#19590523)
      OK, so lobbyists don't usually flat-out "buy" Members of Congress (although there have been lots of recent exceptions like the Duke Conningham or Freezer Dude Jefferson cases). But Members don't support bad legislation like DMCA because "they have songwriters," etc. in their districts. Lobbyists write the legislation. Lobbyists schmooze Members over free dinner or free Capitol Hill receptions or free or underpriced private jet rides. Lobbyists get their clients to give to the candidate's PAC, or have their clients' employees give, or have their clients' employees trade checks with a party campaign committee so it looks like Rep. X is getting a contribution from his or her own party committee. It's gotten to the point where Members seem to think there are no points of view other than are represented by some lobbyist. Look at phenomena such as Tech Policy Summit [techpolicysummit.com], an echo chamber composed of public-policy mavens from big tech corporations. Public policy is supposed to be for the public. The public interest might occasionally coincide with that of some big corporation, such as Google's stand in favor of net neutrality -- even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Tomorrow Google might merge with a telco and suddenly start lobbying in the opposite direction. Look at Sony, a company that used to lobby for fair use, then they bought a movie studio.

      As for crowing about how few people "call in," do Congressmembers really believe the only calls that should count are those drummed up by lobbying organizations? I'll bet most people here on Slashdot believe calling or writing a Congressmember, on any issue, would be futile / a waste of time.

      • Re:Puhleeze... (Score:5, Informative)

        by morganew (194299) * on Thursday June 21, 2007 @02:05AM (#19590949)
        Your comment is proof that your mind is so clearly "made up" that no amount of knowledge or insight will change your tightly held (albeit unsupported) beliefs. But for the others who may be reading this thread, let's break it down:

        1. You are completely right about some of the total corruption cases we have had - bad news, bad actors, and they got caught pretty easily. The scrutiny is pretty tight nowadays, and some will still be so arrogant as to believe they will get away with it, but history suggests that they are going to get caught.

        2. "Members don't do things because they have people in their districts". My only answer to you on this is: you are an utter idiot if you actually believe that, get yourself a tinfoil hat and stay away from open windows. And since you make these assertions, tell me how you "know this? I can tell you in excruiating detail the days, nights, weeks, months and even years of work that goes into it. Building coalitions, identifying members who are interested, fending off other interests, educating educating educating. If money were the simple answer, legislation wouldn't take long to pass. THe proof point here is even bills that you view as corporate give-aways take YEARS to get done.

        3. "Lobbyists write legislation" - . "Lobbyists" don't automatically write legislation - what they do is say to a Congressional office"If you are interested in this issue area, we'd like to meet with you to discuss legislation that might be of interest to your constituents, or is relevant to the Committee you Chair". Then, a meeting is held and you essentally "pitch" the prospective legislation. Describing why it's good, who benefits, what are the risks, etc. etc. If the Congressman is convinced, then the lobbyist may play a role in crafting the legislation. Your problem here is you see the transaction as a "black box". The reality is the lobbyist is an issue area expert in the subject of the legislation. He is driven by enlightened self interest to know more about a subject than anyone else; he must be able to develop the entire argument, and counter-argument for the legislation. Moreover, he has to understand the politics of the issue, and explain that as well. So to say "lobbyists write legislation" can also be said as "Issue Area Experts write legislation". Most congressional staff are people under 30 years old making around 30k a year. You WANT issue area experts to have a hand in crafting legislation. Also remember that if the bill is controversial, then the 'other side' will come in and argue against it. Literally every imaginable viewpoint gets heard, if not via lobbying, then via hearings.

        4. "Public Policy is supposed to be for the public" While this phrase sounds pithy, it means nothing. You complain about the TPS, but note that the people talking were people who focus on public policy. If I go to OSCON, I want to hear Tridge talk about SAMBA, I don't want to hear someone who isn't part of the development team tell me about the next version of SAMBA. And your comment about Google being "right" at least on occasion proves the main problem you have. You use your own frame of reference to define why a decision was made. If it's a good decision, well, then it was in the public interest - if it was a bad decision it was driven by "Corporations". Yet you are the only person defining "good" and "bad". So your model is flawed from the outset - better to look at legislation from the perspective of enlightened self interest. For example, IBM is pumping lots of money into lobbying for ODF preferences and tech mandates to be made into law around the world. Normally, you would probably oppose tech mandates and preference. But if you support ODF being instituted via law, then would you ignore the clear corporate interests and claim it's good policy? If you do that, then you can't support a public vs. corporate viewpoint. Stop looking at it from the "good" vs. "bad" and start looking at it as enlightened self interest.

        There are lot
        • by mbstone (457308)
          Been there, done that, got to ride the private elevator, hate the weather there, left town.

          I stand corrected. Lobbyists are really Enlightened Self-Interest Advocates.
        • by trawg (308495)
          I can't tell if you actually, genuinely think this is a good system to have, and if so if it's just because you have been/are a lobbyist yourself.

          As a non-American innocent bystander it just seems like a really weird way to operate. At the end of the day despite what you say, all I see is Google spending what I assume is a lot of money on what I assume will be their attempts to change laws to improve their chances in the market.

          I suspect/hope Google will be working on changing draconian copyright laws. But
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by morganew (194299) *
            Paraphrasing Winston Churchill: "It's the worst form of government....after all the rest". Seriously though, it very logical.

            There's really no way to extract money from politics, or even to extract certain interests from having a significant impact on the system.

            Why? Because the more affected you are by a decision, the more likely you are to care. The more you care, the more active you are likley to be. And while you might be able to elminate PACs and contributions and any other from of "cash" you can't
      • by morganew (194299) *
        Oh, and lest anyone think I came up with the theory of US politics as driven by enlightened self interest, I should point out that I am really stealing from de Tocqueville - you can read more by following the links on wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightened_self-inte rest [wikipedia.org]
    • Because money is now a volume activity
      Also important is votes are a volume activity. That's why running a campaign is expensive, and why groups like NRA, Christian Coalition, NAACP, are more influential than any corporation. Politics is now about representing specific groups because most people (those who participate at least) vote acording to what the group leadership tells them.
  • by MerlynEmrys67 (583469) on Wednesday June 20, 2007 @11:41PM (#19590205)

    To make friends on Capitol Hill, Google plans to initiate Google 101, a series of tutorials for congressional aides that will teach them how to use Google's search engine better and faster. The aides will learn, for example, how to do simple math by writing numbers in the proper order on Google's search line.
    So you are telling me that these people aren't capable of doing math - either in their head, on paper, or with a calculator that they have to learn how to do math with Google?
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @12:33AM (#19590455) Journal
    Having a lobbyist is not the problem... if that's the way the game is played, you need to play it.

    Lobbyists are like advertising... nobody would pay for [ads or] lobbyists if they didn't work.

    The problem is that "representing the people" has become a game.

    Maybe we ought to just "draft" a congress. It probably wouldn't be worse than electing one of folks who want to be politicians.

    As for the Senate, maybe we could just draft them too - from the pool of former drafted congress members who pass a post-service vote of confidence.

  • Thank god ! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:25AM (#19591341) Homepage Journal
    Back last year when the anti-net neutrality shit hit the fan, courtesy of at&t again, i said that these kind of things were possible to thwart more easily with lobbying. If there was sufficient lobby of google, yahoo and the like back then this thing would never come around even. Good to see that they have understood what to do and going for it. If, a country is run by representatives who are persuaded/bought, you need to stick to the custom yourself to get things done too.
  • by BillGatesLoveChild (1046184) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:12AM (#19591563) Journal
    > Google is building a lobbying power house in Washington

    Google is so rich they why don't they just buy Dick Chenney? They can afford him, and not like he's not for sale. He can also lend his expert skills to filling in that void left by the ever shrinking 'Don't do Evil' motto. You'll get FOXNews and the rebranded Wall Street Journal thrown in for free.

    The result would be excellent PR: Within six months 56% of Americans will believe Microsoft was behind the 9-11 attacks. Look out for Photoshopped photos of Osama bin Laden swinging a chair.
    • The result would be excellent PR: Within six months 56% of Americans will believe Microsoft was behind the 9-11 attacks.
      Umm, dude, Microsoft was behind the 9-11 attacks. Ballmer and Gates were so angry over Wall Street's use of Linux in their data centers that they called their buddy Osama bin Laden to drop a couple of skyscrapers in the financial district.
  • Sickening (Score:4, Interesting)

    by moeinvt (851793) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @08:16AM (#19592725)
    I don't blame Google one bit, but this whole story is a sickening testament to the blatant corruption afflicting this government.

    "As recently as last year, Google co-founder Sergey Brin had trouble getting meetings with members of Congress."

    When PAYING for access to elected officials is treated as business as usual by the press, without the slightest hint of disdain or outrage, it's a clear sign that the nation is in trouble. It's obvious that Google can and MUST (as a matter of business) rectify that situation by greasing a few palms and dropping some strategic campaign donations.

    I suspected this all along, but it's equally appalling to know that it was Microsoft's failure to pay "protection money" that prompted the government anti-trust crackdown. Apparently, the message from DC is "play the big money politics game or suffer the consequences".

    It's interesting that the mafia is always portrayed as evil for extorting protection money and running numbers games, when the government does the same damned thing in the guise of "campaign contributions" and "lotteries".

    The way to end this cycle of corruption is to extract the money and the power from Washington. If this government was ~20% of its current size and focused on the core mission outlined in The Constitution, many of the issues related to big-money influence in DC would take care of themselves.
    • by Jeremi (14640)
      The way to end this cycle of corruption is to extract the money and the power from Washington. If this government was ~20% of its current size and focused on the core mission outlined in The Constitution, many of the issues related to big-money influence in DC would take care of themselves.

      Of course, the people with the power to make that change (i.e. the elected officials) are by definition the ones who benefitted most from the status quo. Convincing them to bite the hand that feeds them is therefore quit

  • Of course it did a long time ago really.
  • All hail the plutocracy of the United Dollars of America.
    One Dollar one vote.
  • Just because bribery in this country is legal does not make it less evil
  • "We're seeking to do public policy advocacy in a Googley way," said Andrew McLaughlin, Google's director of public policy and government affairs.

    Unless you're quoting Ned Flanders, use of the word "googley" should be forbidden.

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

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