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Secretive D.C. firm says corn growers' anti-Google letter is legit

LawMedia Group, involved in a campaign to pressure Congress into holding hearings on Google, insists it's not a lobby group despite ad offering to provide "lobbying" services.

A secretive Washington, D.C., group linked to an anti-Google letter signed by corn farmers says cable providers, which have retained it as a client, have nothing to do with its attempts to convince Congress to hold hearings critical of the search company.

Guillermo Meneses, previously a press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, is now a senior vice president at the LawMedia Group. He said that he was "unaware" of any communications between the American Corn Growers Association--which has no history of being interested in the antitrust implications of online advertising--and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

We reported on Wednesday that the anti-Google letter to Congress, signed by a number of farmers' groups who insisted they were the only ones to write it, included the name of a LMG staffer in the PDF metadata. Meneses said that the staffer, Alexandra Esser, "merely PDF'd a copy before distributing it."

Meneses, who refused to disclose the identities of other LMG clients, added that: "LMG is a public relations firm, not a lobbying firm. I want to make that very clear...We're simply a public relations firm like any other PR firm that you've dealt with in the past."

An advertisement for LMG on lists Meneses by name and shows "grassroots lobbying" as a service that both he and the firm provide. The ad lists "government relations" as another LMG specialty. An old version of LMG's Web site saved by current site is password-protected--boasts of being able to come up with "robust coalitions" to influence "lawmakers."

LMG filed disclosure forms with the U.S. Senate for outsourced lobbying work in 2008. A Washington Post article from 2005 talking about LMG said it was "expected to stop lobbying for non-Bell companies" after the AT&T-SBC merger.

When asked about LMG's advertisement offering to provide "lobbying" services, and how to square it with his claim that LMG does not do lobbying, Meneses said he was not able to answer the question on the record.

Disclosure: Declan McCullagh is married to a Google employee.