In a massive restructuring of its worldwide government affairs and policy workings, Google has let go of around six of its biggest lobbying firms, amid larger government attention on its workings, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
In the last couple of months, Google has gotten rid of lobbying firms, rehauled its Washington policy outfit and got rid of two senior workers who helped build the company’s reputation in Washington. The fired lobbyists made up around 50 percent of Google’s $20 million yearly lobbying bill.
People close to Google are saying the move is a continued modernization of Google’s influence in Washington, something it has built over the last 15 years. However, Google is increasingly under the spotlight of Washington regarding privacy and data practices, and some politicians on the campaign trail are calling for the company to be broken up. It is among the Big Tech firms under scrutiny in congressional antitrust hearings that began this week.
One of the fired lobbyists is Charlie Black, a longtime Republican strategist. Google also got rid of firms that have ties to senior politicians in Washington on both sides of the aisle, including firm Off Hill Strategies.
Sources say Google’s new lobbying strategy has evolved from what it was when the company was just a startup, and that it’s making changes to handle the new landscape moving forward.
The steward of the changes is Karan Bhatia, who is Google’s new head of policy and government relations. Bhatia used to work as a senior trade rep for George W. Bush, and he was later a high ranking exec at General Electric.
Leaving Google in the midst of the restructuring is the company’s head of public policy, Adam Kovacevich, who helped to head off a 2012 FCC probe into anti-competitive practices. The year before Kovacevich joined Google, in 2006, it spent $800,000 on lobbying and had four organizations on retainer.
In 2018, the company has 100 lobbyists and 30 firms, spending $21.7 million in Washington, which made it the largest spender on lobbying out of all other U.S. companies.