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Where Google spends its PAC money on Capitol Hill

Commentary: The company's push to gain influence in Washington increases as its Political Action Committee has spent nearly half a million dollars for 2012. You may be surprised by some of the recipients.

Google's efforts to gain influence in Washington is sending money to some politicians who may make Internet civil liberty advocates cringe.

According to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission, Google's PAC (Google Inc. NetPAC), as of July 2012, the search giant has made almost half a million dollars in campaign contributions.

That's no chump change compared to other tech powerhouses. Microsoft's PAC doled out $24,000 in July, bringing its total campaign contributions for the year to $565,500. Yahoo's total campaign contributions for the year amount to $36,500. Oracle gave $174,250 this year.

On the lobbying front, Google still reigns: eBay spent $400,600 in the second quarter, and Amazon spent $690,000. They've even beat the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) so far, who spent $1,170,00 in lobbying to date.

This comes after reports show that alongside the July formation of a new tech lobbying group ("The Internet Association"), Google and Facebook spent $3.9 million and $960,000 on lobbying this year, respectively.

It is an election year, so that's got to be considered when contemplating the piles of money Google's throwing at politicians.

It's also important to keep in perspective that Google's PAC contributions are nothing when compared to AT&T (almost $1,175,000 so far in 2012), and Comcast's PAC (close to a million at $934,000).

What the new numbers tell us is that Google is clearly interested in expanding its influence on decision makes in Washington.

But Google is putting money directly into the pockets of politicians whose viewpoints on technology are not aligned with Google's stated values - men who have authored bills and have voted toward shaping an Internet in which Google would never have been created.

Who is Google funding in Washington?

Hillicon Valley reports:

(...) $5,000 each to GOP Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

On the Democratic side, Google's PAC gave money to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), and poured $5,000 into Sen. Bob Casey (Pa.)'s coffers.

Some of you may be interested to note where some of these contribution recipients stand on technology and security issues.

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy is for a permanent ban on state and local taxation of Internet access - but voted yes on retroactive immunity for telecoms' warrantless surveillance and voted yes on extending the Patriot Act's roving wiretaps in 2011 and voted no on requiring FISA warrants for wiretaps in US.

  • Rep. Buck McKeon shares the same record as McCarthy on warrantless surveillance and wiretaps, but also has voted consistently to allowing electronic surveillance without a warrant, continuing intelligence gathering without civil oversight, and in 2006 McKeon voted against Net Neutrality.

  • Rep. Jeff Flake has a record on warrantless wiretapping and unrestricted surveillance consistent to McCarthy and McKeon, voted yes on retroactive immunity for telecoms' warrantless surveillance, is against Net Neutrality but was vocally anti-SOPA. 

As you may remember, the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) was a bill positioned as as an anti-piracy tool yet its implementation would have given entertainment businesses extraordinary power to create an internet blacklist - and the bill became known as one of the biggest threats to free speech in recent history.

Is this a case of strange bedfellows for Google - or a shrewd move for Google to have its voice heard a little more clearly in Washington? It will be interesting to see where Google takes its political influence as its reach, and contributions, increase.

I've reached out to Google for comment on its PAC goals and what could be its first clear act of realpolitik behavior, and will update this item accordingly.