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US: Google hires D.C. lobbyist with a friend in high places

House Speaker Hastert's son part of new team

by Verne KopytoffSan Francisco Chronicle
March 16th, 2006

Facing increasing congressional scrutiny, Google Inc. has hired a lobbying firm that includes the son of U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

The Mountain View Internet giant hired Joshua Hastert as part of a team of lobbyists from the firm PodestaMattoon to champion its interests in privacy, compensation and China, among other issues, according to documents filed with the U.S. Senate.

The hiring is another sign that Google is raising its profile in Washington, where legislation is pending or is being considered that could significantly affect the company's business.

Recently, members of Congress excoriated Google for introducing a search engine in China that censors results deemed subversive by Beijing. Lawmakers have introduced a bill that requires Internet companies to locate search engines outside of repressive nations and create a basic code of conduct for the industry.

Google is also bracing for a battle over so-called net neutrality. At stake is whether everyone's information travels over the Internet's digital highways at the same speed.

Google strongly supports keeping the Internet democratic. But the telecommunications companies that own some of the Internet's infrastructure -- which have legions of lobbyists -- believe otherwise, and hope to charge companies to deliver their data to consumers more quickly.

It isn't clear when Google became a client of PodestaMattoon, which also represents defense contractor General Dynamics and the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association. Documents show that the relationship started sometime after July, at a cost of around $40,000 through the end of 2005.

That the House speaker's son is a lobbyist with the company certainly doesn't dampen Google's influence on Capitol Hill. Neither Google or Hastert returned calls seeking comment.

This isn't the first time Google has used a lobbying firm. Capitol Tax Partners and Public Policy Partners have also represented the company.

As Google increases its list of outside lobbyists, it is adding internal staff to handle public policy. Last year, it hired Alan Davidson, former associate director for Washington advocacy group Center for Democracy & Technology, as its Washington policy counsel. Also last year, Elliot Schrage joined Google as vice president of global communications and public affairs. He leads the company's policy communications, among other roles.

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