For a company that takes pride in being the quintessential outsider, Google is moving quickly into the ultimate insider’s game: lobbying.
Started less than a decade ago in a Stanford dorm room, Google has evolved into a multibillion-dollar business, its search engine ubiquitous on the Internet. Its sprawling growth, fueled by a public stock offering in August 2004 that created a market behemoth, has now thrust it into the glare of Washington.
As lawmakers and regulators begin eyeing its ventures in China and other countries and as its Web surfers worry about the privacy of their online searches, Google is making adjustments that do not fit neatly with its maverick image.
It has begun ramping up its lobbying and legislative operations after largely ignoring Washington for years, in a scramble to match bases long established here by competitors like Yahoo and Microsoft, as well as the deeply entrenched telecommunication companies.
Google has hired politically connected lobbying firms and consultants with ties to Republican leaders like the party chairman, Ken Mehlman; Speaker J. Dennis Hastert; and Senator John McCain; and advisers say the company may set up a fund-raising arm for political donations to candidates. And in a town where Republicans hold the levers of power, Google has begun stockpiling pieces of the party’s machine.