The same day the White House unveiled a proposal to give consumers more rights and privacy on the Internet – it was revealed that Google hired a government insider to head its lobbying efforts in Washington. Google revealed, in a statement released Thursday, that Susan Molinari, a former New York congresswoman and a once rising star in the Republican Party, will be the vice president for public policy for North and South America. She will be replacing Alan Davidson, who stepped down in November 2011.
Ms. Molinari, a Republican, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1990, but stepped down in 1997. She worked in television for a period and has been a lobbyist since 1999. She is married to Bill Paxton, who was also a Republican representative from New York and is currently a lobbyist at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Ms. Molinari has extensive ties to the Republican Party establishment, according to The New York Times. Over the years, she has donated a quarter of a million dollars to Republican candidates.
Just this past summer, Google hired an additional 12 lobbying firms to represent it – they did this after an investigation on breaches to user privacy was launched by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). That FTC probe eventually resulted in Google paying out millions, admitting to violating the privacy of its users, and agreeing to a 20 year consent order in which the company will regularly file assessment reports with the FTC.
Google is one of the biggest spenders among corporate lobbyists – spending $9.7 million on lobbying in 2011, nearly double the amount the company spent the previous year (an increase of 88%).
Ms. Molinari’s appointment to her new job at the company is a calculated strategy by Google to try to win over Republican support at Congress. According to the newspaper, The Hill, Google has even also been working hard to get former Republican lawmakers to join the company as lobbyists.
Google obviously wants to control how Congress votes and passes its bills by making sure to strategically place Google employees to influence outcomes. By hiring people who already know how to skillfully navigate waters at Washington and who have influence over important people there, Google can make sure it sways things in its favor.
This is especially important for Google and its advertising partners, to completely stop or significantly water-down proposed and future legislation that gives Americans more rights over their online personal data. If laws that limit Google from collecting our personal data are passed, then this is a disaster scenario for the company. You have to remember that Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising! Any law that prevents Google from harvesting our personal information to sell to advertisers will result in huge losses for the company. Google will fight tooth and nail to halt any legislation that gives Americans more protections online.
Google has hired other Republicans over the years as well. Google is trying to distance itself from a perception that it’s too close to the Obama administration and, in general, the Democratic Party. Former CEO and current executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, has very close ties with the Obama administration. He is a major party donor to the Obama presidential campaign. In addition, Mr. Schmidt was a member of Obama’s transition advisory board and a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He had also been considered for several other positions, including a cabinet position within the Obama administration.
Over 80% of Google executives have donated money to support Obama and other democrats. This isn’t much different from how other Silicon Valley tech company workers spend their money. In 2008, the industry gave then-Senator Obama more than $9 million dollars to support his campaign for the presidency. This was three times what the industry raised for any other politician. It is expected that contributions for to Obama’s 2012 campaign will exceed that number and President Obama is depending on it. These Silicon Valley tech companies now spend more money to support Obama than Hollywood does. President Obama depends on Google and Google depends on President Obama.
The Daily Beast has a great article called “President Obama Courts Silicon Valley’s New Digital Aristocracy“, which discusses this further – click here
In a 2011 report, the advocacy group Consumer Watch compiled a report that details how Google benefits from close ties with the Obama administration. Consumer Watchdog received evidence to back their report through Freedom of Information Act requests – click here (PDF file)
According to the Washington Post reporter, Cecilia Kang, experts have said that lawmakers in Congress are suspicious of Google and feel that it has received too much favoritism from the White House. In response to this – Google is hoping that if it implants high-profile Republicans in Washington, it can start winning support in Congress. Already, there have been several bipartisan efforts made by several lawmakers to put more restrictions on Google and Google has already been grilled recently by a congressional committee made up of both Democrats and Republicans. If Google can divide Republicans by winning over some support of Republican representatives in Congress, the company can eventually conquer Congress. If successful, Google can destroy bills and/or render bills ineffective in helping the average Internet user by watering it down.
Google has already succeeded with this type of political manipulation in Britain. Privacy advocacy groups in Britain have recently accused Google of meddling to stop more stringent privacy laws. Google was able to convince a British government department to ask an independent regulatory authority to reverse its hard-line stance on Internet browser security. For further details on this - click here
So, how the heck was it possible for Google to convince the British government to do what it wanted?
Well, one major reason can be credited to a woman named Rachel Whetstone. If you recall, I first wrote about Ms. Whetstone a few days ago on my site when I gave you a breakdown of her ridiculous convoluted statement after the whole controversy surrounding Google deliberately circumventing privacy settings on Apple’s Safari browser – click here
Anyway, Ms. Whetstone, who is Google’s vice president of communications and policy, is married to Steve Hilton. Mr. Hilton is the Director of Strategy for the British Prime Minister David Cameron. Both Rachel Whetstone and Steve Hilton were godparents to Prime Minister Cameron’s eldest son (who sadly passed away three years ago at just 6 years of age).
Opposition parties have accused the British government with having too close ties with Google and a prominent Conservative entrepreneur has even called Google a parasite that drains revenue. There was also the infamous “review” of British IP laws, initiated by Prime Minister Cameron, and nicknamed by others as “the Google Review”. According to reporting by The Register in the UK,
“…it was introduced with a quote attributed to the Google founders by Prime Minister David Cameron. According to Cameron, the Google founders had said they could never have founded Google in the UK, because of copyright law here. There was one slight problem: the founders had never said anything of the sort, and the claim was finally traced to Google’s European public policy director Richard Sargeant – who had led the lobbying for reform of copyright in Google’s favor”
Google will do anything to wiggle its way into any government and influence any politician. If Google can influence politicians, it then can have influence on governments. Google can control the way laws are developed and it controls which laws to dump out completely. Google has enormous power and persuasion. A single company with this much international power and influence is a deeply concerning and, quite frankly, scary.
Call up your representative in Congress and tell them to not let Google control how they vote. If important, comprehensive, and stringent Internet privacy laws for Americans have any chance of succeeding in Washington – it will be absolutely dependent on Google failing!
Susan Molinari’s tenure is slated to begin in mid-March with the official title of “Google’s vice president of public policy and government relations for the Americas.”
For more information:
The Register, “Labour targets Tories’ Google problem” – click here
The Hill, “Google hires former Rep. Susan Molinari to lead Washington office” – click here
The New York Times, “Google Gets a High-Profile Lobbyist” – click here
TPM, “Why Google Hired Former Rep. Susan Molinari” – click here