[1/31/17] After years of enjoying a close relationship with the Obama administration and other Democratic leaders, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is showing signs that it’s cozying up to Republicans as it adapts to new leadership in Washington.
But Alphabet also finds itself in a bit of a tricky position, trying to curry favor with a White House that has already put forth policies counter to the company’s culture and business interests, like the executive order signed on Friday that barred people from seven predominately Muslim countries.
On Monday, about 2,000 Google and Alphabet employees from around the world walked out to protest the immigration ban, and company leaders like Google CEO Sundar Pichai, cofounder Sergey Brin, and other execs spoke to those gathered.
It was the biggest anti-Trump demonstration from a tech company, following the flood of statements from practically every major CEO or leader in the industry.
For all the public displays of discontent, Alphabet is hardly shunning the new Republican-controlled government. As a for-profit public company with vast business interests tied to US policy, Alphabet can’t afford to disengage with the government. And as a result, the company is taking a more pragmatic approach behind the scenes, ramping up lobbying efforts in Washington and looking for ways to get closer to Donald Trump’s administration.
Getting closer to Republicans
At the end of last year, Alphabet parted ways with the Podesta Group, a Democratic-leaning lobbying firm led by Tony Podesta, the brother of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, Bloomberg reported.
Alphabet had worked with the Podesta Group for 12 years, and Bloomberg noted that the timing coincided with a job posting at Google for someone to spearhead “conservative outreach.” However, a person familiar with Alphabet’s relationship with the Podesta Group told Business Insider that the lobbying firm was the one that cut ties because it was asked to do so by Oracle, another big tech client that competes with Google.
The Podesta Group did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
This month, The New York Times reported that Google financed a swanky party in Washington in a partnership with the right-wing news outlet The Independent Journal Review. The party was the day after the new Congress’ first day, and most of the lawmakers in attendance were Republicans, The Times reported.
In December, Alphabet CEO Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt attended the so-called tech summit at Trump Tower with Trump, along with other notable tech leaders like Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
But that meeting wasn’t the end. Schmidt was spotted in Trump Tower about a month after the tech summit, though it’s unclear what he and Trump discussed.
Schmidt also met with Republican Sen. John Thune, who chairs the Senate’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy before visiting Trump Tower, according to The Times.