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Google Hires Headliner to Direct Government Relations

Google has hired veteran lobbyist and former member of Congress Susan Molinari to represent the company. Molinari served as a Republican member of the House of Representatives from New York between 1990 and 1997. Since then, she has represented major businesses as a lobbyist.

Molinari, who will be based in Washington, D.C., “will become Vice President of Public Policy and Government Relations for the Americas, managing our policy advocacy and government outreach in North and South America, not just the D.C. office,” said Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond. “I am excited about Susan joining Google. She’s a true trailblazer and her enthusiasm for our technology and its potential to change lives will be a real asset to our team in the Americas.”

Google Doubles Lobby Budget

In recent years, Google has beefed up its lobbying effort in Washington. It spent US$11.4 million on lobbying in 2011, nearly double the amount spent in 2010, making it one of the leading corporate lobbying spenders, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Molinari will head a staff of 12 full-time company lobbyists and manage 30 different Washington lobbying firms that Google has on retainer. Including full-time staff, 126 lobbyists were registered to represent Google in 2011.

“This appointment shows that Google is increasingly becoming aware of representing itself before Congress and is willing to put significant resources behind it,” David Jacobs, consumer protection fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told CRM Buyer.

Google Has Major Issues

“What we’re seeing here is a kind of natural maturation of the process of companies that are growing quickly and need to follow that up with better Washington representation. Google has a lot of issues including privacy, antitrust and copyright content,” Bill Allison, editorial director for the Sunlight Foundation, told CRM Buyer.

“And with a Republican House, it’s also a way to kind of hedge your bets, from a political sense, to bring in a former House member who is also a Republican,” he said.

One indication of the company’s awareness of its need for strong representation at the federal level is the recent controversy over user privacy. Google plans to implement a modified privacy policy as early as March 1. Among other changes, the plan calls for aggregating consumer information from several sources.

Last month, Google sent members of Congress a letter designed to alleviate concerns about the new policy, but privacy groups and many attorneys general across the U.S. continued to object to the plan.

Google met with key House members on Monday to discuss the issue, but the meeting was conducted in private, leading to further complaints from consumer groups.

“We understand that you are planning to hold another closed-door briefing session about Google’s March 1 planned changes. While we very much appreciate your ongoing interest in this issue, we strongly object to a second secret meeting with Google. There is absolutely no reason that there could not be a public hearing. Even Google is committed to transparency,” the groups said in a letter to Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., chair of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. Among the groups signing the letter were EPIC and the Consumer Federation of America.

The Federal Buzz

E-Government Budget: The Obama administration has proposed a 2013 budget of $16.7-million to for the White Office of E-Government and Information Technology, a gain from the 2012 level of $12.4-million, but it still far below the $34 million of 2009.

“Our priorities will include helping agencies maximize ROI, continuing data center consolidation and improving business and citizen engagement,” Lisa Schlosser, deputy OMB administrator for the office, told CRM Buyer. “We also want to develop the capability to incubate innovation and then work on the scale-up across government.”

Cybersecurity Research: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has entered into a partnership to establish the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, a public-private collaboration for accelerating the widespread adoption of integrated cybersecurity technologies. NIST’s fiscal year 2012 appropriations provided $10 million to establish the center. The project calls for providing a state-of-the-art computing facility where researchers from NIST will work collaboratively with both the users and vendors of cybersecurity products and services. The state of Maryland and the Montgomery County government are cosponsoring the center with NIST. The facility will be located at NIST’s Gaithersburg, Md. campus.

John K. Higgins is a career business writer, with broad experience for a major publisher in a wide range of topics including energy, finance, environment and government policy. In his current freelance role, he reports mainly on government information technology issues for ECT News Network.

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