Secretive Foe Attacks Google Over Government Influence

Google's enemies are legion. [The company] has fought bitter court battles against Apple, Microsoft, Oracle and PayPal. It has faced a well-financed campaign by Oracle, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Nokia and others against its European operations, plus a similar action driven by Yelp. It's been targeted in a lawsuit by AT&T over access to utility poles for Google Fiber.

Now, in what appears to be a new tactic on the technology industry battleground, Google has come under attack by a mysterious group that keeps mum about its sponsors while issuing scathing reports about the Mountain View search giant's influence on government. Among its recent revelations: High-ranking Google execs have had more than 20 "intimate" meetings with President Barack Obama, and the company has a revolving-door employment relationship with the federal government.

While the backers of the "Google Transparency Project" may be hidden, its purpose is clear, observers say: To offer purportedly objective research and commentary that can be used to thwart Google's burgeoning power in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, much as similar "think tanks" have sought to undermine the environmental lobby or promote development projects.

"When you're successful, you're on top of the hill. You become a target," said Michael Cusumano, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management who studies the technology industry.

Google, with a market capitalization of $529 billion, is a Goliath among Bay Area tech giants. It is known for disrupting industries around the world, from travel to media to transportation, making it enemy No. 1 for many competitors and leaving a trail of lawsuits in its wake. Oracle is still fighting to renew a failed $9 billion lawsuit accusing Google of stealing Oracle code to cash in on the Android mobile operating system.

Google and the Transparency Project both declined to comment.

So far, only Redwood Shores-based Oracle has admitted to funding...

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