Until fairly recently, Silicon Valley companies steered clear of political lobbying. No longer.
Top among tech companies looking for influence in Washington is Google, which spent $5.5 million on congressional lobbying in the first quarter, the most since it started petitioning Congress internally in 2007, according to data released this week.
This expenditure reveals how Google may be looking to the government to help protect existing business—like search and advertising—as much as ease the legal environment for new ventures—like broadband and health data mining—experts said.
That $5.5 million sum placed Google fifth among all companies and trade organizations registered to lobby in that period, according to money in politics researcher MapLight. The company hired or retained about 100 lobbyists last year, according to think tank Public Citizen, spending nearly $17 million in 2014, ninth-most among registered organizations.
"They're exponentially more powerful in politics than they've ever been. They're a giant in a lot of ways right now," said Lisa Gilbert, director of the Congress Watch division at Public Citizen.
Google's projects and federal disclosures provide some insight into the company's policy goals.