Google is growing up. That was the message company representatives shared at Heritage this week on the Silicon Valley behemoth’s 13th birthday. (Click here to watch video of the event.)
Google is making the case for the free market — and taking its message to conservatives. The Heritage Foundation hosted representatives from Google at Tuesday’s Bloggers Briefing. The meeting came just a few days after a Senate hearing in which Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt was grilled by lawmakers over the company’s search engine ranking practices.
The search engine giant recently added former Republican staffers to round out its ranks and build relationships with organizations and lawmakers on the right. Lee Dunn, a former aide to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), is one of the recent additions.
“You have to remember Google is a new company, and I think they were learning the ways of Washington,” Dunn said about the tech giant’s past activities and recent efforts to build bipartisan support with policymakers.
While Dunn purported Google’s solutions to be market-based, the company embraces policies that conservatives strongly oppose, such as net neutrality. Suspicions on the right also arise from its former CEO’s close relationship to President Obama.
“I think one of the things we’ve learned is that no company can get anything done in Washington without partnerships on both sides of the aisle,” said Adam Kovacevich, head of competition public policy and public affairs at Google. “People may not necessarily agree with the politics of some of our executives, that doesn’t mean that philosophy about government regulation on Internet content should be different.”
The company, however, is attempting to strike a different tone with a Congress that is asking questions about Google’s role in the marketplace. The Senate’s Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee held a hearing last week on the issue.
“They welcome the oversight of the Senate Antitrust Committee and they welcome the FTC investigation,” said Dunn, “but what they want is that the solution be a free-market based approach, including the net neutrality debate.”
Dunn noted that the net neutrality debate taught Google how Washington works and why it is now advocating a market-based policy approach. James Gattuso, senior research fellow in regulatory policy at The Heritage Foundation, suggested that it is more likely that the Federal Trade Commission’s recent investigation into Google’s search-engine practices are what motivated the company to change its tune.
Despite its efforts in Washington, there are moments when Google’s actions continue to scare conservatives. Such was the case Monday when Douglas Edwards, former director of consumer marketing and brand management at Google, stood up during Obama’s LinkedIn town hall and said, “Please raise my taxes.”
“It sometimes pains me as a Republican to see former Google execs standing up and asking to be taxed more,” remarked Dunn, in response to questions about Edwards’ comment.
Not everyone at The Bloggers Briefing was convinced of Google’s arguments or motives.
Scott Cleland, author of “Search and Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google, Inc.” and a Microsoft consultant, criticized Google’s antitrust legal council, Susan Creighton, when she called the company an exemplar of free market principles.
Cleland later wrote for Forbes that “Google is engaged in an emergency, politically-expedient, extreme makeover to try and get free market conservatives to rescue Google from their own reckless disregard for the rule of law and for the property and privacy of others.”
UPDATE: Seton Motley, president of Less Government, asserted at The Bloggers Briefing that Google donated money to MoveOn.org. Google says that’s inaccurate. The company has never donated to the left-wing organization.