Jan 30, 2020 - Technology

Google gathers D.C. policy pros for closed-door conference

Photo: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP via Getty Images

Google brought a slew of D.C. policy experts to its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters this week for a summit, according to people familiar with the event, as the tech company seeks to deflect scrutiny from Washington.

Why it matters: Google is in the midst of reconfiguring its approach to a newly aggressive Washington, and it cut its lobbying budget last year. With this event, the company aims to make sure D.C. influencers from across the ideological spectrum understand its products better.

Details: Roughly 50 people from groups ranging from Public Knowledge to Americans for Prosperity are attending an event that Google, according to an invite obtained by Axios, is billing as the first in a "series of quarterly policy and product summits."

  • Google will "present an interactive program designed to dig into timely and relevant subject matter and to strengthen connections between our valued partners and our broader teams," according to the invite.
  • That includes briefings and discussions on products such as search, advertising and artificial intelligence, according to a person familiar with the event.
  • Speakers from Google's D.C. office include Karan Bhatia, vice president of global policy and government relations, and Mark Isakowitz, vice president of government affairs & public policy.

Between the lines: It's common for companies such as Google to host gatherings of policy experts. Outside voices can be critical in shaping Washington policymakers' views, so in an era of growing mistrust of Silicon Valley, companies like Google may find indirect influence more effective than direct lobbying.

What they're saying: "We've long engaged with organizations from across the political spectrum that focus on technology issues," a Google spokesperson said. "We're always glad to have the opportunity to host people at our headquarters to explain our products and the work we do to innovate."

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