Friday, September 15, 2006

Google's slide to the Dark Side

From Google's Investor Relations site:
Our informal corporate motto is "Don't be evil."
I think that's going to be difficult if this Raw Story snippet is to be believed (I've had some trouble with Raw Story in the past):
Google is "eager" to work with the Republican Party and has boosted its presence in Washington, D.C., according to Roll Call.

"Google, one of the fastest-growing companies in Silicon Valley, is ramping up its political clout in Washington, D.C., while taking a series of steps to court Republicans," report Tory Newmyer and Paul Kane for Roll Call. "The company is filing paperwork today to open its first-ever political action committee, and later this month, it will make an endangered GOP incumbent the beneficiary of its first-ever Washington fundraiser."

"The search-engine giant this month also deepened its ties to Republicans by inking a deal with former GOP Sens. Dan Coats (Ind.) and Connie Mack (Fla.) to lobby on its behalf," the article continues.

(HT: Progressive Gold) It's so funny how companies try to maintain their ideals. But the forces of the market are strong. It's probably a wise move for Google to butter up Republicans, just as it's probably a wise move to play ball with China. It's a good investment. But don't try to kid us on how radical and different and cool you are. You are a big corporation, and you participate in all the good and evil that big corporations must participate in if you're going to be successful.

"Don't be evil" is a good motto, but how much revenue growth would Google really be willing to sacrifice to achieve it? Now of course, some would argue that supporting Republicans isn't evil. But if my understanding of Google's culture is correct, most of the people there aren't supporting Republicans because they like their politics. So far, buyblue.org shows Google to be a 100% Democrat giving company. And it's headquartered in the Bay Area of California, one of the more Republican-hostile places in the country. So even if you think dealing with Republicans isn't evil, I bet the folks at Google think it is. But they're doing it anyway.

When I was at Microsoft, I remember how we thought we didn't need to pay attention to Washington DC. We were so profitable and "new economy" and fast and agile we didn't need to sully our hands dealing with those slugs in Washington. But that changed awfully quick once the anti-trust suit started rolling. Now Microsoft gives over 1.1 million in political contributions, according to the buyblue.org site, with a bit more than half going to Republicans.

I don't blame companies for doing this. If politicians can be bought, corporations would be foolish not to buy. What's $1.1 million when billions in revenue or tens of billions in shareholder value are at stake? (The only real question is asked here by The Exile: Why are American politicians so cheap?)

Public Financing of Political Campaigns might be an improvement over the system of legalized bribery that currently exists. But money will find a way to exert its power. My high school history teacher said any group of people with more economic power than political clout will seek to find a way to translate the former into the latter. I hope people-powered politics can counter this, but there's a lot of work to do.

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