Google grabs GOP lobbyists to help on the Hill

AFP Photo / Kimihiro Hoshino
Google have been conducting a search of their own as of late. Facing a high-profile probe in Washington, Google has brought on board several Republican bigwigs to buy itself some bipartisan support to balance out its left-leaning roster of lobbyists.

Google top-brass went before lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week for the beginning of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing titled "The Power of Google: Serving Consumers or Threatening Competition?" With anti-competitive and antitrust allegations being lobbied at Google for months now, it looks as if the search engine superstar has reached out to Republican lobbyists in hopes of evening out its pull on politicians.

Google has long been considered a more left-leaning corporation than any other stance. Eric Schmidt, the company’s executive chairman, campaigned on behalf of Barack Obama during the 2008 election cycle and was reportedly even considered for a position under the president. Last year the DC-based outlet The Hill reported that the pro-free-market group National Legal and Policy Center had labeled the company “the Halliburton of the Obama years,” to which Google attempted to defending by saying they don’t take sides.

“Technology isn’t a partisan issue,” Google spokeswoman Mistique Cano responded to The Hill at the time. “We’ve believed for a long time that it’s important to build relationships on both sides of the aisle, and that’s something we’ve done for years.”

As a congressional probe stands to impact the search engine giants, however, Google has reached deep into the Republican Party to get a grab at some top-ranking GOP members in hopes of garnering the support of the right.

In the months leading up to the hearing that began last week, Google hired a lobbying firm led by the former spokesman for President George W Bush. In recent times, they’ve also cut checks to several conservative think tanks and organizations, reports The Huffington Post, including the Heritage Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Republican Governors Association, Crossroads Strategies, the Republican Attorneys General Association and the Republican State Leadership Committee.

The DC-based paper Politico also noted that Google’s political action committee has offered up donations to some leading Republicans since the start of 2011, including House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Rep. Darrell Issa of California and Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas.

Last week, of course, Google also co-sponsored the latest televised debate of GOP candidates — along with Fox News.

When The Huffington Post caught Sen. John Cornyn up to date with the recent right-reaching tactics from Google, the GOP representative (and one of the Republicans on the antitrust hearing) responded, "Are you saying they're finally becoming bipartisan? That's a good thing. Bipartisanship is a positive thing.”

Regardless of who they have on their side, that doesn’t mean Schmidt and Google will necessarily walk away unscathed. When Schmidt was quizzed last week on the Hill about if the company puts Google-brand sites as the top search results, the executive answered, "I'm not aware of any unnecessary or strange boosts or biases.” Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, says Google has “cooked” it’s search results, however, and Democrat Minnesota Senator Al Franken responded, "If you don't know, who does?"

"That seemed like a pretty fuzzy answer to me, coming from the chairman," added Franken.

In a 2007 interview with a Google exec, Bloomberg reports that one official responded to a similar question with, "We do all the work for the search page … so we do put it first."