Google Gets $erious in Washington

Lobby spend tops $5 million

Google isn't fooling around when it comes to Washington. The search giant spent $5.03 million in first quarter, a 240 percent increase over the same period last year and an all-time high, according to federal disclosure records filed with the U.S. House of Representatives. The first-quarter spending is about equal to what Google spent for the entire year in 2010.

Google's first-quarter expenditures topped other big spenders, including Verizon's $4.5 million and Microsoft's $1.8 million. Google's lobbying war chest dwarfed Facebook, which totaled $650,000 in the quarter, up 182 percent. But Google still has a ways to go to equal AT&T spending, which was $7.04 million in the quarter.

Google's is under increasing scrutiny in Washington for its privacy practices and policies, and the company was also one of the major lobbying Internet forces that stopped online piracy bills SOPA and PIPA in January. To help the company promote its interests with lawmakers and regulators, Google recently brought on former congresswoman Susan Molinari to head its Washington office.

"Google claims its motto is 'Don't Be Evil,' but the amount of cash they are throwing around demonstrates an astounding cynicism," said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's privacy project director. "Hiring Molinari shows that Google executives intend to play political hardball."