With the hiring of former Republican Rep. Susan Molinari to head its lobbying shop, Google has fully embraced the Washington culture it once found beneath contempt. When company officials first came to town, the brash, young tech company made clear that it didn't need an army of well-connected lobbyists to carry its message for them. They were already hard at work making the lives of staffers and lawmakers easier with better online searches and tools -- and they were beloved for it.
Former CEO Eric Schmidt underscored the point a couple of years ago when he told The Washington Post, "The part of politics in Washington that's 'who you know' and all that kind of stuff, it's just not very interesting."
My, how times have changed. Molinari is the very definition of an inside player. As a representative from New York, Molinari was elected to House Republican leadership making her the highest ranking woman in Congress. After her political career ended, she founded her own firm, served in a senior role at the lobbying shop Bracewell & Giuliani and was the CEO of The Washington Group. And she's married to former Republican Rep. Bill Paxton, a lobbyist with Akin Gump.
She replaces Alan Davidson, who founded Google's Washington office, at a time when the search giant is under intense anti-trust and privacy scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers alike.
Google's lobbying operation is no longer playing on its own terms, but on Washington's.
UPDATE: Here's a more recent quote from Schmidt when asked by the Post last fall how his thinking on lobbying has evolved:
There are two kinds of lobbying. And this, I think, is grossly unfair but kind of true. There's the kind of lobbying where you pay an ex-senator to get the current senator to write a sentence into a bill, and there's no confusion as to what this is about. You are representing your corporate interest. It's specific to your company. In Washington, for example, you can pay an ex-person $50,000 to arrange a meeting to get that process, to get those five sentences written in this bill, and so forth and so on.The punch line is, we concluded that we didn't want to do that as industry, and certainly not at Sun. We wanted to lobby based on ideas. And as far as I know, every company that I've worked with--and I was part of the Business Software Alliance and all these other groups--we all sort of agree with this. There's a line that we're not willing to cross. So what we do from a leadership perspective, at least in terms of political leadership, is we talk about ideas. ...The staffers--and the staffers are young--the staffers get it. They're 25, 30 years old and they all get it. So that's what we depend on. And of course we've hired ex-staffers as well. They all know each other. So that's how it really works. And I believe what we're doing is extremely defensible if it's around ideas. I would have a lot of trouble if we in our industry started following the other kind of lobbying.
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