- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2008

The software giant’s tab of almost $2 million for the third quarter alone nearly equaled the amount that rival Google Inc. spent in the first nine months of the year.

But Google already has spent more on lobbying this year than it did for all of 2007 as the Internet search company starts to emerge as a formidable player in D.C. lobbying circles.

The lobbying muscle of both companies was on full display in recent months as Microsoft and Google battled over Google’s plans to sell some of the online advertisements that appear alongside search results on Yahoo Inc.’s Web site. Google and Yahoo entered into the partnership in June in an effort to keep Yahoo out of Microsoft’s hands.

But Google walked away from the deal last week in the face of an antitrust challenge being prepared by the Justice Department. That retreat marked a key victory for Microsoft, which had mounted a major lobbying and public relations offensive to persuade the government to block the agreement.

Although Microsoft and Google were on opposite sides in the battle over the Yahoo partnership, they have found themselves aligned in other big lobbying fights. The two companies led a recent push to open up “white spaces” - the unused, unlicensed spectrum between television channels - to deliver wireless Internet access. That effort paid off when the Federal Communications Commission approved the use of white spaces for broadband last week.

Google and Microsoft also have been key proponents of reforming U.S. patent laws to address a mounting backlog of applications and halt the increase in infringement litigation often driven by poor-quality patents.

In both cases, the companies have faced off against other powerful industries with deep pockets and well-established lobbying arms in Washington. In the white spaces fight, Microsoft and Google took on the National Association of Broadcasters. In the patent reform dispute, they have battled the nation’s big pharmaceutical companies and other industries that want to leave the system intact.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft spent $6.9 million on federal lobbying during the first three quarters of this year, compared with $9 million in all of 2007, according to disclosure forms. The company easily outpaced Google and Yahoo combined in the third quarter - spending $1.98 million, compared with Google’s $720,000 and Yahoo’s $570,000.

But Google is catching up. The company spent $2.1 million on federal lobbying during the first nine months of this year, compared with $1.5 million for all of 2007. And while not all big technology companies have chosen to play active roles in the nation’s capital, Google wants to be a key participant.

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