Watchdog attacks Google US$4m lobby spend

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Watchdog attacks Google US$4m lobby spend

Behind on transparent lobbying.

New York City's public watchdog, advocate Bill de Blasio, has attacked Google over its secret political slush fund.

De Blasio said Google's US lobbying budget had ballooned to US$4 million ($4.35 million) in 2009, some fifty times what it spent in 2003.

He has written an open letter to Google's CEO Eric Schmidt, asking Schmidt to disclose what Google spends on influencing during US elections.

He noted that Google's increased spending coincided with the US Federal Trade Commission's investigation into its StreetView Wi-fi data harvest.

"A company like Google could donate millions of dollars to a trade association to spend on TV advertising supporting or opposing legislators who take positions on internet privacy," wrote de Blasio.

The watchdog asked Schmidt and Google to follow its technology counterparts and either stop spending during elections or disclose what they spend. These include Dell, Microsoft, Adobe Systems, eBay, Gilead Science, Hewlett Packard, Intel and Xerox.

"Surprisingly Google is behind the curve," said de Blasio."I urge them to join the growing number of companies that are doing the right thing and demonstrate their true commitment to transparency and accountability."

The advocate's campaign, launched on YouTube, is likely to be viewed seriously within the Mountain View company with de Blasio the official successor to the city's mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

The disclosure campaign has come after the US rolled back restrictions on corporate treasury spending during elections, leaving them free to spend without the public's knowledge.

Google's Australian lobbying

Google's local lobbying efforts are handled by Kreab & Gavin Anderson. The company, which also boasts Apple, the Internet Industry Association, eBay, Paypal and Yahoo as clients, has represented Google in Canberra for at least two years.

Partner and head of Kreab & Gavin Anderson Canberra office, Feyi Akindoyeni, has "strong Labor ties", according to a report in Fairfax publication The Age. She has handled the affairs of Google, Yahoo and Apple in the capital, according to her company profile.

Ties between its lobbyist and the Labor Government, however, did not stop Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy taking a sledgehammer to Google in parliament over its Street View data harvest.

Google was also at loggerheads with the Government over its now-delayed mandatory internet filter.

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