WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Google Inc (GOOGL.O), already one of Washington’s biggest spenders, set a company record for its lobbying activity in the first quarter of 2015 when it spent $5.5 million, according to a government database.
Google ranked ninth in terms of total lobbying spending in 2014 at $16.8 million, behind the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($124 million) and the National Association of Realtors ($55 million), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The disclosure on lobbying expenditures comes as the company faces charges brought by the European Union that it demoted rivals in search results.
Europe has also opened an investigation into allegations that Google uses Android to keep its dominance as consumers go mobile, while Google’s rivals are asking the U.S. Justice Department to also open a formal probe into Android in the United States.
The $5.5 million Google spent in the first three months of 2015 is the most since the company began lobbying in 2007, according to the government database. Its ranking for this quarter’s spending could not be immediately determined.
Google’s growing investment in lobbying highlights the tech firm’s expanding presence in Washington as it fights antitrust battles at home and abroad, and grows its business into new areas such as broadband connectivity and self-driving cars.
In the first quarter of 2015, Google’s list of lobbying issues included legislative efforts to clamp down on aggressive patent litigation, a push to allow skilled immigrants to more easily stay in the United States, net neutrality, tax reform and broadband deployment, the company said in its disclosure statement.
“Google’s big spending in Washington could be meant in part to rally Congress and the White House to come to its defense in the face of the EU’s antitrust case against the company,” said Viveca Novak, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsive Politics.
“It needs allies, the more prominent the better — and it also wants to stave off any similar government inquiries stateside,” she added.
Google, a sprawling search and advertising behemoth, has faced a range of investigations on issues ranging from scraping rivals’ reviews to demoting rivals’ content.
It settled with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on these issues in early 2013 but European competition authorities brought formal charges against Google last week. Google has denied any wrongdoing, and could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Alan Crosby