Google has a lot of reasons to care about national politics: potential Department of Justice anti-trust litigation, net neutrality, H1-B visas for foreign workers, corporate tax rates, and so on. So it makes sense that Google would want to use their influence to push the election toward the candidates that will bolster their business objectives.
In the last three years, Google has contributed over $185,000 to political candidates through their political action committee (PAC) called NetPac.
The top ten fund recipients were:
- Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) – Speaker of the House and California Representative – $12,000;
- Anna Eshoo (D-CA) – Representative of Google’s district in Mountain View and member of the Energy & Commerce Committee which works on Internet-related issues – $8,500;
- Barbara Boxer (D-CA) – California Senator – $8,500;
- John Dingell (D-MI) – Ranking member on the Energy & Commerce Committee, and also the representative for Ann Arbor Michigan, where Google has a large call center – $8,000;
- Arlen Specter (R-PA) – Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which includes Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights – $8,000;
- Frederick Boucher (D-VA) – Member of the Energy & Commerce Committee – $6,500;
- John Boehner (R-OH) – Member of Energy and Commerce Committee – $6,000;
- Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) – Representative for San Jose and parts of Silicon Valley – $6,000;
- Harry Reid (D-NV) – Senate Majority Leader – $6,000;
- Gordon Harold Smith (R-OR) – Serves on Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation – $6,000
The top ten contributors to this PAC are not that shocking:
- Sergey Brin – $15,000;
- Vinton Cerf – $15,000;
- David Drummond – $15,000;
- Urs Hoelzle – $15,000;
- Jeffrey Huber – $15,000;
- Lawrence Page – $15,000;
- Jonathan Rosenberg – $15,000;
- Shona Brown – $10,000;
- William Coughran – $10,000;
- Robert Eustace – $10,000.
So now the question: based on this information – who (if anyone) will Google contribute money toward in the 2008 presidential election? Well, despite the fact that the seven out of Google’s top ten donations went to democrats, I think the truth is that Google is playing a very apolitical game here and will likely avoid contributions to either campaign.
Google’s past contributions basically fall into two categories: local politicians who can help Google out in Silicon Valley, and members of powerful Senate and House committees that directly impact Google’s business. The fact that many of these people are democrats makes sense considering the democratic control of the Congress and the resulting control of important committees.
In other words, Google waits to see who is in charge, and then contributes generously to the winner. In a close presidential election, the risk of backing the wrong candidate is too great considering the minimal return on an investment of a few thousand dollars.