Antitrust Dept: Cracking Down on Google, Silicon Valley

Make no mistake about it: The trustbusters are pretty serious about dropping the hammer on Silicon Valley in order to break up the region’s web of cozy relationships, as last month’s Wired story make clear. They are looking especially hard at Google, which has been increasingly widening both its scope and its ambitions.

Bloomberg reports today that the rumors of Google and Apple colluding when it comes to hiring employees are getting a closer look in Washington. Yesterday, Eric Schmidt resigned from Apple’s board of directors (or was shown the door by Steve Jobs, depending on your take) and now there’s talk that Genentech Chairman Art Levinson, who sits on the boards of Google and Apple, will have to make a similar choice.

“These problems would not have emerged a couple of years ago because Google was so unidimensional,” said Joe Angland, an antitrust lawyer at White & Case LLP in New York. “Google was great at what it did, but it didn’t do that many things.” (via Bloomberg.)

As Wired’s Fred Vogelstein recounts, Christine Varney, head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said at at a National Press Club event back in June of 2008 that: “For me, Microsoft is so last century. They are not the problem. I think we are going to continually see a problem, potentially, with Google.”

lobbyinggooglePerhaps Google saw it coming. And that is why the company has been bulking up its presence in Washington D.C. by hiring outside lobbying firms. Google even has two offices in the Beltway. And all that costs a lot of money. Almost $1.83 million was spent by the company on lobbyists alone during the first two quarters of 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

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