Google hires conservatives to curry favour with Donald Trump

Google is racing to hire more conservatives for its lobbying and policy arm, trying to get a foothold in president-elect Donald Trump’s Washington after having a uniquely close relationship with the administration of president Barack Obama.

In the weeks since the presidential election, Google has ramped up efforts to hire Republican lobbying firms and in-house lobbyists to change the composition of its Washington office, according to three lobbyists with knowledge of the matter.

The company also posted an advertisement for a manager for conservative outreach and public-policy partnership, seeking a “liaison to conservative, libertarian and free-market groups”.

While the position is not new, it gives Google a chance to make a hire that reflects the new political climate. Conservatives already are represented in the office. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

Larry Page — chief executive of Alphabet, Google’s parent company — was expected to be in the room yesterday when Trump convened a gathering of leaders of some of the largest technology companies in his New York headquarters.

The session, organised by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, adviser Reince Priebus and supporter and tech financier Peter Thiel, was billed as an introductory meeting that would not result in any job or investment announcements, according to sources.

Others attending were Apple chief executive Tim Cook; Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg; Amazon boss Jeff Bezos; Tesla Motors head Elon Musk, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Oracle boss Safra Catz.

The Information Technology Industry Council, a trade group whose members include Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, had a conference call last Friday to discuss policy objectives it could agree on to present to Trump.

Trump clashed with Silicon Valley on several issues during the election campaign, including immigration, government surveillance and encryption. His surprise victory alarmed many companies, which fear he might follow through on his pledges.

Trump has also opposed the Obama administration’s ‘net neutrality’ rules, ordered in 2015 by the communications regulator to reclassify broadband internet services to treat them more like public utilities. The rule is now said to be headed for a reversal.

Liberal-leaning Silicon Valley had bet heavily on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton winning the White House, and many technology companies have found themselves scrambling in the wake of Trump’s election.

However Google, which forged deep ties to the Obama White House and was the largest corporate contributor to Clinton’s campaign, appears to have been caught especially off guard, Washington insiders said.

Only 33 employees of Google and its parent company Alphabet donated $201 (€188) or more to Trump, for a total of $23,300. Clinton received donations from 1,359 Google or Alphabet employees for a total of $1.6m.

Google NetPAC, the company’s political action committee, made 56% of its contributions to Republicans in the 2016 election cycle, according to data from the Centre for Responsive Politics.

During Obama’s presidency, more than 250 people moved between jobs at Google or related firms and the federal government, national political campaigns and Congress, according to a report this year by the Campaign for Accountability, a watchdog group. The company notched several wins during the administration, including favourable policies on net neutrality.

Google seemed poised to have similar treatment under a Clinton administration. However, those ties are now something of a liability as the company tries to reposition its presence, lobbyists said.

The company still has to reconcile the lobbyists it hires with its liberal-leaning existing staff. 

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