Google, eBay, Amazon, Facebook back new lobbying group

WASHINGTON Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:19pm EDT

The Facebook ''thumbs up'' icon and logo are displayed in a window at the offices of J.P. Morgan in New York City, New York, May 4, 2012. REUTERS/Lee Celano

The Facebook ''thumbs up'' icon and logo are displayed in a window at the offices of J.P. Morgan in New York City, New York, May 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lee Celano

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Google Inc, Amazon.com Inc, eBay Inc, Facebook Inc and other big Internet companies are starting a trade association to handle political and regulatory issues in Washington, a person close to the group said on Wednesday.

The Internet Association, which will open its doors in September, will act as a unified voice for major Internet companies, said President Michael Beckerman, a former advisor to the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee.

Beckerman would not identify the association's members or discuss which issues the group will focus on. But the source confirmed that leading members were Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook.

Internet companies have been lobbying recently on issues as disparate as easing visa restrictions to hire overseas engineers, revenue repatriation, privacy, cybersecurity and sales taxes for Internet companies.

"We want to educate (lawmakers) about the impact of the Internet in their congressional districts," said Beckerman. "In September, we'll do a full rollout and announce companies and announce policy positions."

Google and Facebook have been steadily ramping up federal lobbying spending.

Google, the world's No. 1 Web search engine, increased federal lobbying spending by 90 percent year-on-year, spending $3.92 million in the second quarter to lobby the U.S. Congress, the White House and various federal agencies, according to required filings disclosing lobbying.

The company, which is being investigated by antitrust regulators in the United States and Europe, lobbied officials at the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Commerce.

Facebook boosted its spending on federal lobbying by 200 percent in the second quarter, spending $960,000 on issues including online privacy and immigration reform.

The world's largest online social network with 900 million users, Facebook said it lobbied lawmakers on market structure and initial public offering issues during the quarter.

In May, Facebook became the first U.S. company to go public with a market valuation above $100 billion. But the market debut was marred by technological glitches on the Nasdaq exchange and criticism that the IPO was priced too high.

EBay spent $400,600 dollars on lobbying in the second quarter, up about 10 percent from the same quarter in 2011. Its lobbying efforts focused on piracy and counterfeiting, air pollution and revenue repatriation, according to disclosure filings.

Amazon spent $690,000 in the second quarter, up about 25 percent from the second quarter of 2011. Its lobbyists worked on issues including sales tax, privacy and advertising.

(Reporting By Diane Bartz; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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