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Google Political Donations: Where Company Execs Put Their Cash

With the news last week that Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has finally agreed to testify before a Senate subcommittee on antitrust issues in September, we thought it would be interesting to look at which politicians have benefited the most from campaign contributions by Schmidt -- and Google as a whole.
According to the contribution-tracking site, Schmidt, Google's executive chairman and former CEO, has been the most active political contributor among Google's executives, having given $20,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in both 2009 and 2010 -- as well as $17,500 to the National Democratic Senatorial Committee. (He also gave $10,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2010, and $10,000 combined to two Republican PACs.)

Schmidt gave the individual maximum contribution limit of $4,800 apiece ($2,400 for primary election funds and $2,400 for the general election) to Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Schumer sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights -- the subcommittee that is investigating Google's dominance of the Internet search industry.

Schmidt also made two $2,000 contributions to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.); a $2,400 and a $2,000 contribution to Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.); one-time $2,000 contributions each to Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.); and $1,000 contributions to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), and John Garamendi (D-Calif.).

Using OpenSecrets, MoneyWatch also compiled a list of the lawmakers to whom Google employees and its political action committee (known as NetPAC) donated the most in 2010. The table below breaks down contributions from NetPAC as well as from individuals associated with Google, and lists the top 15 recipients. The top 9 recipients of Google's largesse in 2010 were Democrats, as were 12 of the top 15 overall.

Google also clearly favored politicians in its home state of California; one-third of the top 15 recipients represent the Golden State.

Google's other top executives were not nearly as generous as Schmidt for the 2010 cycle. A search on OpenSecrets revealed no political contributions of any kind from Google CEO Sergey Brin, and only one listing for co-founder Larry Page -- to President Obama's inaugural committee, for an unknown amount. Other prominent Google contributors to the inaugural committee include Schmidt ($25,000), chief legal officer David Drummond ($25,000), Location and Local Services VP Marissa Mayer ($25,000), YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley ($25,000), and former product manager Laura Debonis ($25,000).

In 2008, Google's PAC, its employees, and their employees' immediate families gave $803,436 to Barack Obama's election campaign, making Google the fifth-largest source of funds to the campaign -- behind the University of California ($1,591,395), Goldman Sachs ($994,795), Harvard University ($854,747), and Microsoft ($833,617), according to OpenSecrets.

For the 2008 election cycle, OpenSecrets showed that Google was the 72nd-largest political donor in the country, with total donations of $2.2 million -- including donations from NetPAC, soft-money contributions and $200-or-more individual contributions made by the company, its employees, officers, and their immediate families. Microsoft, which faced antitrust investigations by the Justice Department in the 1990s, came in at 11th, with $4 million in political contributions during the 2008 cycle.

Google's policy is not to comment on the activities of its executives and employees, but with respect to its PAC, a Google spokesman said: "Over the past several years, the Internet has become a bigger part of our lives and a bigger part of the debate in Washington. We created Google NetPAC to support candidates on both sides of the aisle that promote the open Internet as a platform for communication, innovation, and economic opportunity."

Research by Drew Gannon

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