When most people think about Google (s GOOG) and Facebook, they think about California’s Silicon Valley. But according to newly filed disclosure documents, the tech industry’s titans are spending more and more time — and money — making their voices heard in Washington, D.C.
Google spent a whopping $2.06 million on lobbying efforts in the second quarter of 2011, according to documents filed this week per the US Senate’s Lobbying Disclosure Act. The search engine giant spent $1.48 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2011. The company seems on track to clearly outspend its 2010 lobbying budget: Google spent a total of $5.2 million on lobbying efforts last year.
According to the documents, Google’s Q2 2011 lobbying funds were focused on such issues as international tax reform, international freedom of expression and censorship, renewable energy policies, and an H.R. 399 bill titled “Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s From Leaving the Economy Act of 2011,” to name just a few.
This most recent quarter represents the first time Google has outspent Microsoft (s MSFT) in formal lobbying. Microsoft spent $1.85 million on lobbying efforts in Q2 2011, up from the $1.72 million it spent during the first quarter of 2011.
Google’s increasing influence in Washington is setting off alarm bells for some policy watchers. California-based public interest group Consumer Watchdog is calling for Google chairman Eric Schmidt to register formally as a lobbyist, since he personally is spending increasing amounts of time working in government relations.
“Schmidt could well have reached the threshold requiring registration as a lobbyist; he is clearly trying to influence policy,” said Consumer Watchdog director John Simpson in a press release issued Thursday. “It certainly should be checked out.”
The scrutiny is not stopping relative newcomers to the tech industry’s big leagues from trying to have their own say in Washington. Facebook spent $320,000 during Q2, according to regulatory documents filed this week, nearly the same amount that it spent over the entire course of 2010. Facebook has spent $550,000 on lobbying so far this year on such issues as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011, and an initiative billed as “discussing House, Senate, and Government rules to allow more Government and Congressional offices to access social media and to use social media to engage with citizens.”