By Ben Brody
Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which is facing congressional proposals to make websites responsible for content that promotes sex trafficking, has hired veteran Republican lobbyists to tackle issues including liability for online platforms, according to a person familiar with the hire.
The company brought on Jochum Shore & Trossevin PC as it faces a raft of legislative and regulatory hurdles in Washington. Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Friday, Google disclosed that it spent $4.17 million on lobbying during the third quarter of 2017, with multiple outside lobbyists appearing to work on the trafficking issue. Big technology companies spent heavily as Washington ratcheted up pressure on issues ranging from Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election to the trafficking bills.
Several tech companies including Google and Facebook Inc. oppose the proposals because they’d weaken liability protections. Google has also cited concern that penalizing companies for knowing about trafficking content might stop smaller internet companies from looking for it at all.
One of the firm’s partners, Jim Jochum, is a former legislative director to Senator Chuck Grassley, who serves as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Some of the firm’s work will focus on that committee, the person said.
Jochum Shore & Trossevin will also focus on privacy issues, among others, the person said.
Another partner, Andrew Shore, formerly served as chief legislative strategist for the Google-backed NetCoalition in its successful battle against the Stop Online Piracy Act and another bill that would have strengthened protections for online intellectual property, according to his biography on the firm’s website. NetCoalition’s members included Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
The hire, which will be made public Monday, comes after Alphabet’s subsidiary X — which works on ambitious, risky projects like its drone program and balloon-internet effort — disclosed two separate hires earlier this month: Kountoupes Denham Carr & Reid LLC received $20,000 from X during the third quarter as it became the company’s first lobbying engagement since April, while the subsidiary also hired Franklin Square Group, LLC, which already works with Google, after the deadline to disclose fees.
While Google routinely engages strategic consultants who don’t need to disclose the relationships, lobbyists, who tend to focus more on engagement with policy makers, must provide some details on their work to the public.