Google's latest target: Washington

As the search engine powerhouse Google penetrates more and more markets, it's also penetrating Washington. Google execs have been reading Microsoft history and are working hard not to repeat Redmond's ill-advised choice in the early '90s to shun the halls of government.

As the search engine powerhouse Google penetrates more and more markets, it's also penetrating Washington. Google execs have been reading Microsoft history and are working hard not to repeat Redmond's ill-advised choice in the early '90s to shun the halls of government. Careful not to repeat Microsoft's stand-offish attitude, Google is engaging both lawmakers and the grassroots on its issues, reports the Washington Post

Whether it was institutionalized aversion to government policy-making or just an overblown sense of its own omnipotence, Microsoft studiously avoided Washington and found itself on the wrong end of several enormous antitrust lawsuits that severely impacted the company.

"The entire tech industry has learned from Microsoft," said Alan B. Davidson, head of Google's Washington office. "Washington and its policy debates are important. We can't ignore them."

In this as seemingly in all things, when Google puts its energy into a market, good things happen. Growing from one lobbyist just two years ago to a team of 21, Google is moving to new offices and has already had one huge win. Google lobbyists wrote an antitrust complaint about Vista, charging that it discriminated against Google Desktop, in violation of antitrust agreements. In short order, Microsoft agreed to make changes to Vista.

Google has not only increased its staff lobbyists, it's spending big bucks on outside firms connected to prominent former senators, as well as other heavy hitter law firms. And Google has a lot of lobbying to do: their proposed acquisition of DoubleClick is raising serious antitrust flags.

Lobbying is not always about asking for legislative help, though. It's the little things, like Google 101, a class for congressional staffers on how to use the search engine more effectively.

Google executives are parading through Washington with some frequency and being well-received, thanks to the advance work of their capital-based staff. In just the past few weeks, Google executives testified to Congress on such issues as immigration (Google wants more highly educated immigrants to work in the United States) and the future of video (Google owns YouTube, the popular video Web site).

The company has peppered the Federal Communications Commission with recommendations on how to handle a major upcoming auction of telecommunications spectrum. Google Washington's Richard S. Whitt, a former head of regulatory affairs at MCI, helped write those suggestions, which the company hopes will enhance people's ability to access the Internet -- and Google.

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