Google's big victory last week -- when the Federal Trade Commission announced it is closing its antitrust investigation of the search giant -- was credited by many to the fact that Google did what Microsoft refused to in the 1990s: It learned how to play ball in Washington.
The investigation into Google's potential anti-trust violations was significant and thorough enough -- nine million documents were examined -- that lobbying probably didn't win the day for the company. But the fact that Google established a powerful and efficient operation in Washington to befriend lawmakers and regulators of all types probably helped it avoid the acrimonious and bitter dispute that Microsoft went through in the 1990s over antitrust issues. It also helped Google avoid the image of being a bully.
In 2009, when the antitrust investigation against Google began to gain speed, that company spent just $4 million a year on lobbying -- a significant sum, but paltry for a company of its size.The figure jumped the next year, and every year since. In 2010, it spent more than $5 million, and then in 2011 nearly doubled that figure to close to $10 million, surpassing Microsoft's spending. But Google didn't just match Microsoft's lobbying efforts, it has blown them out of the water in the last year. Through the first three quarters of 2012, Google spent $14.3 million, nearly double what Microsoft will spend for the year -- even before Google's fourth quarter lobbying expenditures are counted up.