Google Inc.'s fourth-quarter lobbying expenses climbed 45 percent, capping a year in which the Internet search leader's spending on political persuasion accelerated at a far faster pace than the company's revenue.
Lobbying lawmakers, government regulators and the White House cost Google $1.12 million during last year's final three months, up from $770,000 during the same period in 2008, according to a recent disclosure statement.
That raised Google's lobbying tab for all of 2009 to $4.03 million, a 42 percent increase from $2.84 million in 2008.
Google's 2009 revenue rose 9 percent to $23.7 billion, the company's slowest growth rate since it went public in August 2004. The lull, triggered by the worst U.S. recession in 70 years, prompted Google to clamp down on its spending on its employees and in many other areas.
But Google hasn't eased up on lobbying as the company has muscled into new markets, including telephones, business software and electronic book sales, while maintaining a huge lead in the lucrative Internet search market.
Google's dominance of online search and its ambitious expansion plans have raised more regulatory concerns about the company's market power and also sharpened the government's focus on how consumers' dependence on Google's services could affect people's privacy.
Although its lobbying expenses have been steadily climbing the past few years, Google still isn't spending as much as one of its biggest rivals, Microsoft Corp.
In 2009, Microsoft spent $6.72 million on lobbying, including $1.69 million in the fourth quarter. But the world's largest software maker spent 24 percent less on lobbying last year than it did in 2008 when its lobbying expenses totaled $8.9 million.
In the fourth quarter, Google lobbied Congress and the Federal Trade Commission about online advertising -- the main source of the company's profits. Other politically sensitive issues on Google's fourth-quarter agenda included: patent reform, copyright laws, digital books and open Internet access, according to the Jan. 20 disclosure form filed with the House of Representatives' clerk's office.
Google also lobbied Congress, the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the White House about international freedom of expression and online censorship.
That's a particularly hot topic now because Google has vowed to stop censoring its search results in China, a promise that could result in the company leaving the world's most populous market. The Obama administration and many U.S. lawmakers have applauded Google for taking a stand against China's rules restricting the flow of information on the Internet.
Among those registered to lobby for Google were: Pablo Chavez, former chief counsel to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Harry Wingo, former counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee; Johanna Shelton, former counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee; and Seth Webb, who has held a variety of positions for lawmakers and House committees.