Google snuck its way out of a two-year Federal Trade Commission antitrust probe without any major scratches this week in large part because it spent $25 million on lobbying Washington to believe it wasn't, in fact, being evil, according to numbers from Politico's Tony Romm. As the case ramped up, with Google's Eric Schmidt testifying, Google upped that spending. In the first three quarters of 2012, Google spent $13.1 million on lobbying, up from $5.9 million the previous year, according to numbers from The New York Times's Claire Cain Miller and Nick Wingfield. In addition to pouring money into its lobbying efforts, Google and its leaders also made strategic campaign contributions: Schmidt gave the maximum amount allowed, $2,400, to Senator Chuck Schumer, who sits on the committee that was investigating Google. As Thursday's FTC decision allowing Google to maintain its search stranglehold simmers throughout the tech world, the other factors leading to it are becoming more clear — and they all come down to dollars.
Google did what Microsoft didn't.
"Google had the Microsoft case as a template," Kevin Werbach, an associate professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, tells Miller and Wingfield. "Google just had to convince the regulators it was sufficiently different from Microsoft." Part of that involved taking Washington more seriously, which Microsoft didn't do in its landmark 1999-2001 antitrust case, at least not at first. Microsoft had a lobbying outfit, run by Jack Krumholtz. But in the years leading up to the Microsoft case it spent a fraction of what Google did. When the FTC was laying judgment on Microsoft in 1999, the Windows maker doubled its lobby spending for the year to $3.7 million, which comes out to about $4.5 million after inflation. Meanwhile, with its tens of millions, Google set records of its own this year. Microsoft did have a cushy $1.4 million PAC leading up to the 2000 election, but that was too late — the FTC concluded its investigation in 1999, with a settlement arriving in 2001. Google, meanwhile, has a history of big campaign contributions, giving big in 2008 and 2012.