While SOPA was being stopped by the free and open internet, few noticed that at the exact same time Google appointed a new DC insider to its Washington office: three-term Republican Congresswoman and lobbyist Susan Molinari.
In late February as SOPA protests attained the summit of changing public and political opinion, Molinari replaced Alan Davidson in the search engine giant's Washington office - signifying a new era for Google's relationship with Washington.
- See also: Anti-SOPA Internet Society under fire for hiring MPAA executive (CNET)
In case you're surprised that Google has a DC office, you can join me in peering under this very curious rock.
SOPA gave many the impression that tech had little presence in DC to advocate for a free and open internet - so few people had any idea that Google spent $11.4 million on lobbying in 2011 (more than double its 2010 expenditure of $5.1 million) making it one of the leading corporate lobbying spenders.
In comparison, Facebook spent $1.35 million in 2011.
- Read about the SOPA protest: SOPA halted in House (CNET)
Susan Molinari's new leadership signifies the beginning of an era certain to be packed with more Google-Inside-the-Beltway FWB ('Friends With Benefits') for a number of significant reasons.
For starters, Molinari brings a whole lot of DC Republican lobbyist and big business special interest know-how to the job. And that can really help Google Inc.
Molinari is an experienced Washington lobbying veteran. She was a Republican member of Congress from 1990-97 and has been a registered lobbyist since 1999, when she established her own lobbying firm. (Between '97 and '99, Molinari attempted a career in TV journalism.)
Her clients have included Freddie Mac, Exelon, SBC Communications, and Verizon Communications - the Sunlight Foundation highlights her nuclear and defense clients here.
Ms. Molinari certainly brings a different experience set than her predecessor Alan Davidson.
Davidson was the associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology - which, as opposed to the current Republican political trend, advocates for a free and open internet with a strong emphasis on consumer privacy, a la 'Do Not Track', among others.
That's a long way from today, where Google's Molinari heads a staff of 12 full-time lobbyists and manages 30 different Washington lobbying firms that Google has on retainer for various issues.
Interestingly, Ms. Molinari has also given more than $200,000 in campaign contributions over the years, exclusively to Republican candidates (according to the Sunshine Foundation, that’s more than 10 times what Alan Davidson gave mostly to Democrats).
Ms. Molinari made her public debut last week as Google’s VP of public policy at GlobalWIN’s Women’s History Month Forum. Mistique Cano, Google’s manager of global communications and public affairs, helped guide Molinari through her first public event in her new role.
Cano is widely cited in torrent blogs for being Google's spokesperson for explaining and defending Google's modus operandi regarding the blacklisting of so-called "piracy-related terms" from its search.
- Interesting reading since then: Google takes aim at MPAA in Hotfile case (ZDNET)
As an aside, Cano is also a geo-location targeted advertising advocate.
It's important to note that Google isn't the only one with a former Republican DC insider making plays for the corporate team.
This past week Facebook placed Greg Maurer, a former aide to Speaker of the House John Boehner, to head up its House outreach efforts out of the company’s DC office. He officially starts April 2nd.
When it comes to big tech and its legacy of idealism, I think there could be a lot of hope when money, power and skill come together to influence policy.
At the same time, it's nervous-making to see what kind of cocktail the combination of idealistic companies growing up fast, a foundation of "don't be evil" and the corrupt culture of DC lobbying could create.
No matter what, it's clear that the formerly separate roles of tech - social, internet, privacy - and politics are about to be permanently changed.