Google gets a DC insider to run its Washington office


Google “Susan Molinari” today and you’ll quickly learn that the search engine giant has hired the former Republican Congresswoman from New York to head its Washington office, marking a new chapter in Google’s relationship with Washington.

Molinari replaces Alan Davidson, who had opened Google’s Washington’s office back in 2005. The switch in leadership is telling.  Davidson had a very different background from Molinari. He had been the associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, which advocates for an open and free internet.

Molinari, by contrast, is an experienced Washington hand, who has been registered to lobby since 1999, when she started her own lobbying firm, Susan Molinari LLC with three clients: The Association of American Railroads, iAdvance (part of MetaBank) and the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. By 2001, she had added some blue-chip companies to her list, including Exelon, SBC Communications, and Verizon Communications.

In 2001, Molinari joined the Washington Group, a major Washington lobbying firm. At the Washington Group, she took on a wide range of clients, including many blue-chip companies. In 2002, she represented 37 different clients, and maintained a similarly diverse portfolio up until the time she left in 2008.

From there she joined the law firm of Bracewell & Guiliani (the Guiliani in the name is former New York City mayor Rudy), and continued to work as a registered lobbyist, though with a slightly more limited portfolio of clients.

In 2011, she joined the Century Council as a chair and registered to lobby on the organization’s behalf. The Century Council bills itself as “distillers fighting drunk driving and underage drinking.” Its members include leading alcohol distributors such as Bacardi, Brown-Forman, and Diageo.

For a complete list of Molinari’s lobbying clients, see Sunlight Foundation’s Lobbying Tracker.

Molinari has also given more than $200,000 in campaign contributions over the years, exclusively to Republican candidates. That’s more than 10 times what Alan Davidson gave, primarily to Democrats.

Additionally, Molinari is married to Bill Paxon, another former representative from New York, and a registered lobbyist with the firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Molinari takes over a Google lobbying office that has become a major Washington player since it first came to town in 2005. In 2011, Google spent $11.4 million on lobbying (more than double its 2010 expenditure of $5.1 million), making it one of the leading corporate lobbying spenders. Molinari will head a staff of 12 full-time company lobbyists and manage 30 different Washington lobbying firms that Google has on retainer. Including full-time staff, 126 lobbyists were registered to represent Google in 2011. In 2011, Google filed 259 lobbying reports covering 22 different issue areas and 62 different pieces of legislation.