From the Boston Globe
By Jeremy Herb
WASHINGTON - Scott Brown’s campaign staff members liked to say the Republican senator’s underdog campaign was “powered by Google,’’ appropriating the company’s advertising tagline. But some consumer advocates worry that Google’s growing business in campaign advertising will give it an unfair advantage in Washington, where it also is pursuing a broad lobbying agenda.
Offering sophisticated election consulting services along with market dominance, Google helps candidates decide which ads generate the most attention, can make their ads appear when their opponents’ names are searched, and targets individual voters based on their searches and keywords embedded in their e-mail. Brown raised $1.3 million in a single day during his campaign using a Google-powered “money bomb’’ that focused on likely supporters.
But while Google is pitching innovative campaign strategies to politicians, it also is lobbying Congress on everything from Internet privacy to Chinese trade. It spent $4 million last year on lobbyists, more than double what it spent two years earlier.
Thus far, the appearance of conflicts of interest remains theoretical. And not everyone is concerned about Google’s growing political clientele, viewing it as a natural evolution of campaign business online. Google says it keeps its campaign advertising and Washington lobbying divisions completely separate.....
But Steven Weber, a political science [and information] professor at the University of California at Berkeley who studies technology, said that Google has “bigger fish to fry commercially’’ and that it would not do anything that would risk a backlash over gaining political favors.
“It would be madness for them to exploit this in a way that would give someone any opportunity to take them down on this issue,’’ he said.