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Google forms political action committee

Company says it wants to strengthen political influence on decisions Washington makes regarding the Internet.

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

Just in time for the November elections, Google has made a strategic move already familiar to fellow technology heavyweights seeking to wield influence inside the Beltway.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant confirmed Monday that it filed the federal paperwork necessary to set up a political action committee, or PAC, an organization designed expressly to raise money for political candidates and causes.

The top priority for Google NetPAC, as the company has named it, will be swaying "critical decisions affecting Internet freedom, innovation, and competition," said Alan Davidson, Google's Washington policy counsel.

"It's simply a part of our company's steadily increasing involvement in national and global policy issues," Davidson added in an e-mail interview.

The company began stepping up those efforts last year when it , formerly of the Center for Democracy and Technology advocacy group, to launch a Washington-based policy shop. Since then, it has added Jamie Brown, a former White House aide under President Bush, and continues to employ outside lobbying firms.

Roll Call, a Capitol Hill publication, first reported the creation of Google's PAC on Thursday.

Google's widening foray into the policy sphere is hardly novel among tech companies of its size and stature. As previously reported by CNET, contributions by technology companies have grown since the late 1990s, and many major corporations--including Microsoft, Intel and Oracle--already count PAC donations as part of their political strategy. Not all, however, subscribe to the idea. IBM and Apple Computer are among the large firms that have refrained from forming PACs so far.

In recent months, Google has found itself the subject of scrutiny by U.S. politicians and bureaucrats. It joined Microsoft, Yahoo and Cisco Systems at a well-publicized February hearing in which a House of Representatives panel lashed out at the companies' alleged compliance with the Chinese government's censorship regime.

The company has also been at the forefront of the Net neutrality debate, an issue that has divided politicos mostly along party lines and now threatens to derail a larger communications bill pending in the Senate. Google maintains that without stringent Net neutrality regulations, the Internet will cease to be a consumer-friendly, user-driven environment.

"Google NetPAC will support officeholders and candidates who share Google's goal of preserving and promoting the Internet as a free and open platform for information, communication, and innovation," Davidson said.


Correction: This story misidentified the first publication to report the creation of Google's PAC. It was Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper.