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Google Businesses The Internet Government The Almighty Buck Politics

Google Sought To Hide Political Dealmaking 283

Posted by Zonk
from the they're-slipping-to-true-neutral dept.
A blog entry by Michael Kanellos at ZDNet links to and expands upon an article in the Charlotte Observer. Last year Google was apparently throwing its weight around in North Carolina, seeking tax breaks from state and local legislators. When the company didn't get what it wanted pressure was brought to bear on legislative aides, journalists, and politicians. The search giant was especially touchy about keeping the negotiations secret: "Executives didn't want anybody even to mention the company's name for fear that competitors could learn of its plans. Most involved with the negotiations were required to sign nondisclosure agreements ... That posed challenges for elected officials, charged with conducting the public's business in the open. As the tax measure wended its way through the legislature, some lawmakers began linking it to Google." The results of this deal are extremely lucrative for both sides. Google brought some $600 million in investment and as many as 200 jobs to the state, and legislation enacted with Google's help is projected to save the company some $89 million in taxes over 30 years.
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Google Sought To Hide Political Dealmaking

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  • Um (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Umbral Blot (737704) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @07:30AM (#17880240) Homepage
    Can we just all agree that Google is about as evil as the average corporation now? Or do some of you still believe that Google really is above the rest morally?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Timesprout (579035)
      Can you not tell from the language used in the summary. Read blackmail or extortion for 'political dealing' if this was Microsoft. Note how the benefit to both parties is mentioned, if this were microsoft then it would be evil for everyone except MS.
      • Re:Um (Score:5, Informative)

        by QuickFox (311231) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:14AM (#17880384)
        Google has been slipping for a long time. They've been supporting domain squatting [google.com] forever.

        It's sad, really.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The rationale behind that one is kind of interesting - it runs something like this.

          1. Domain squatting will exist no matter what we do
          2. Right now parked domains are worthless piles of annoying punch-the-monkey ads, spyware infections etc. People who land on them by accident at best have their time wasted, at worst are actually at risk of infection.
          3. By creating AdSense For Domains, we provide a way to "monetize" parked domains in a useful and somewhat profitable way by showing ads related to the domain name it
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Zeinfeld (263942)
        Can you not tell from the language used in the summary. Read blackmail or extortion for 'political dealing' if this was Microsoft. Note how the benefit to both parties is mentioned, if this were microsoft then it would be evil for everyone except MS.

        The subsidies they obtained are not even that great. $89 million over 30 years is only $3 million a year. That is for a $600 million capital investment.

        Expecting to do this quietly is somewhat strange, unless they were really concerned that there would be so

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Score Whore (32328)
          That'd be $3 million a year that the taxes payers of North Carolina aren't getting. May be offset by new jobs, but it may not. Besides, if Google was not going to be evil, they wouldn't have to have sweetheart deals. Presumedly Google was going to have to employ those 200 people, the only question was who is going to pay Google to pick the location. Sounds evil to me.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            That'd be $3 million a year that the taxes payers of North Carolina aren't getting. May be offset by new jobs,

            True, but you might be getting the same tax break. Let's scale this down from huge corporation to a single citzen level, and see how the deal sounds. $89 million tax break for a $600 million investment and + 200 jobs = $44,500 tax break ($1,483 per year) for a $300,000 house and paying someone to mow your lawn. How much of a tax break do you get for the interest on your mortgage? Is this deal act
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by sumdumass (711423)
              It's not evil. I doubt the numbers even make it apear that way. If anything it is a net loss for google until it developes products in that facility or puts it to use. And there is no guarentee that a use will make money.

              The reasons for secrecy is that they are probably planning on using it for something other then the Data center of the traditional sence and they didn't want competitors knowing about the shift. It is probable something obvious to those in the industry if they looked hard enough. Besides, t
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ucklak (755284)
        I'm not part of the "Google does noe evil" but what is wrong with wanting to get tax/extortion breaks?

        It all comes down to the bottom line and the purpose of all businesses is to make money.

        $3 million a year in taxes is a lot of money. Why the hell does North Carolina need that much from 1 company????
        Does North Carolina have a secret army? What does Red Hat pay? What does any medium sized bank pay?
        • Re:Um (Score:5, Informative)

          by HuguesT (84078) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @10:50AM (#17880922)
          States have expenses too. Maybe not armies, but roads, schools, employees and so forth. Some of these expenses hopefully benefit the public. They have to be paid by taxes, and if Google doesn't pay these 3 millions a year, rest assured that someone else will, most probably taxpayers in one form or another.
          • by aussie_a (778472)
            But not all of the money would stay with North Carolina, right? Surely some of it would get booted up to the Federal level where there are armies to pay for.
            • by TykeClone (668449)
              The federal government has its own tax structure to take care of that. States typically go begging the federal government for some of their money back - not the other way around.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Ucklak (755284)
            Google is providing income by means of jobs. Something that North Carolina isn't doing. That means more state income tax payers. Retail and health care services will be used by employees and may even mean more people in the state.

            I agree that states have expenses like road upkeep, schools, etc... But damn, look at any downtown infrastructure, are each of those tennants paying into $3 million a year each. That's a bit much for NC to ask.
    • Re:Um (Score:5, Interesting)

      by GrumpySimon (707671) <.email. .at. .simon.net.nz.> on Sunday February 04, 2007 @07:52AM (#17880310) Homepage
      Yeah, the shine's definitely gone off Google, eh? at the rate google (and yahoo) are swallowing up other sites there's going to be some major monopolising going on.

      I think searching the web is one of the few bastions where closed source still rules, and it surprises me that no-one's really made an open source search engine. I'm aware that there are things like Nutch [apache.org] and ht:dig out there but their scope is completely different (site-wide searching primarily).

      So - why don't we have an open source search engine? Pagerank [ams.org] is fairly easy to implement, and would serve as a good starting point for improvement. Writing apps to rank and sort web pages strikes me as the type of problem that a lot of smart people would find a lot of fun.

      I know that it requires a crap load of infrastructure, but if Wikipedia can handle it. Besides, you can index one hell of a lot of pages with the standard few GB of bandwidth a month on cheap-ish hosting plans.

      So - why not?
      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by QuickFox (311231)
        Very interesting idea. Mod parent up.
      • Open Source Search (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The problem with open-source search engines is that it's not really an open-source venture, but a hardware venture.

        You are gathering information, which needs storage, and you need huge amounts of bandwidth and processing power. The actual algorithm is rather unimportant in that context.

        So while it might be interesting to see corporations and universities team up to create a search engine, it is questionable if the costs are worth it.

        What would you say is the advantage of an open search engine, other than h
        • The problem with open-source search engines is that it's not really an open-source venture, but a hardware venture.

          You are gathering information, which needs storage, and you need huge amounts of bandwidth and processing power. The actual algorithm is rather unimportant in that context.

          Au contraire. It is the algorithm which dictates the hardware requirements.

          A simple algorithm might be exceptionally efficient and scalable (but inaccurate and ineffective), and thus, perhaps only a minimal set of hardware

        • by eh2o (471262) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @02:49PM (#17882286)
          Can we run a search engine backend over P2P/bittorrent? There is no shortage of hardware if its distributed. At least, the SPAM-bot networks don't seem to have a problem getting enough bandwidth. :)
      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:12AM (#17880588) Journal
        "Writing apps to rank and sort web pages strikes me as the type of problem that a lot of smart people would find a lot of fun."

        Your at least a decade too late, the ship has sailed and it's called google.

        "Yeah, the shine's definitely gone off Google, eh? at the rate google (and yahoo) are swallowing up other sites there's going to be some major monopolising going on."

        Playing one state of against another is just the regular kind of "evil" found in all big-bussiness, big-bussiness don't pay tax bills like ordinary folk, they negotiate thier tax bill (global corporatization on a smaller scale). Google are paying tax and staying in the US. The politicians did thier job by attracting a large corporate to thier turf and getting gauranteed revenue for 30yrs plus all the spin-off effects on the economy, what more do you want?

        Attacking google for this behaviour is like kicking the cat after a bad day, if you want to attack "evil" there are plenty of targets, corporations that lay the planet to waste and supply waring tribes with modern weapons. They destroy lives and feed from the public trough rather than create meaningfull employment and a nice pot of tax money. OTOH: "Kick the cat" often enough and it will scratch your eyes out while your sleeping.

        Evil is as evil does - Gump.
        The state where I live (not part of the US) built a power plant specifically for an Aluminium smelter, gaurenteed cheap dirty (and drit cheap) electricity for 30yrs or so. They also built a massive sewer to take the waste from a large paper mill and dump it in the ocean and called it a "green project" to rehabilitate the river the mill had already killed. The mill threatened to move overseas/interstate if it had to spend money and went so far as to infiltrate "enemy" community groups in order to discredit them. The crap these places spew and the fairy tale propoganda they use to justify it, is IMHO "evil", but try telling that to anyone who's livelyhood depends on it. Try telling the guy at the nuclear missle plant or the biological warfare lab that his work is "evil" and he will claim he is "preseving freedom" or some such rationalization, to him the thought of not planning for nuclear war is "evil".

        I get kind of sick of the "we caught google being evil" shit that accompanies so many articles, it's not like they are claiming they have God on their side or that anyone else is "evil". Here in Australia we have some odd expressions, the one that fits google on slashdot is Tall poppy syndrome [wikipedia.org].

        Disclaimer: "you" - not picking on "you" personally, just the general sociopathic pendantry that surround google's brilliantly provocative slogan.
        • by 14CharUsername (972311) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:37AM (#17880674)
          Yes but google's motto it "don't be evil". Maybe they should change that to "don't be quite as evil as the other guys". But I guess that doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
          • They should change it to: "don't get caught being evil"
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dynamo52 (890601)
            I don't see how this qualifies as being evil. It is simply doing business. They were merely trying to get the best deal out of the legislature for the company, and nondisclosure is an accepted practice. I don't see any malice in their actions or even any ethical violations. They were not trying to "sqash" the little guy or corrupt the political process. Just business as usual for a large corporation. Am I missing something?
        • by Guppy06 (410832) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @11:13AM (#17881010)
          "The politicians did thier job by attracting a large corporate to thier turf and getting gauranteed revenue for 30yrs plus all the spin-off effects on the economy, what more do you want?"

          How about public accountability in a republican form of government?

          "Attacking google for this behaviour is like kicking the cat after a bad day, "

          The cat doesn't do much more than follow sunlight around the house, occasionally taking a break to eat. The cat isn't involved in perpetuation a corrupt mechanism and rob the people of access to their own government.

          "The state where I live (not part of the US) built a power plant specifically for an Aluminium smelter, gaurenteed cheap dirty (and drit cheap) electricity for 30yrs or so."

          Your failure to properly maintain your own government doesn't make it right for others to follow suit.

      • >>"...at the rate google (and yahoo) are swallowing up other sites there's going to be some major monopolising going on."

        Big doesn't equal evil monopoly, unless Google buys every search site on the planet a-n-d acts to stop new competitors from entering the market.
      • Re:Um (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rich0 (548339) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:48AM (#17880728) Homepage
        You don't see it for the same reason that you don't see open-source drug design, car design, plane design, bridge-building, etc.

        The beauty of software is that it takes no capital to develop it, and it is easy for thousands of people who have never met to collaborate. It also takes no capital to test. And it can be generally implemented on small scales as large as big ones.

        Wikipedia started off as a site nobody ever heard of. Wiki itself started as an extension to the blog concept. I can run my own wikipedia in my living room if I want to - as long as I keep it quiet and don't have the whole world knocking on my door.

        A search engine is useless unless it has indexed a substantial portion of the entire internet. You'd need GBs of data just to know if your algorithm is working. So, it is fundamentally a different problem. Even if you built up the database it is hard for people to collborate on it since they need access to all the data to test new algorithms. Wikipedia scales much better - you don't need to have the whole encyclopedia to test out a new interface model, and the back-end is all commodity software like mysql/apache/etc (that software does require more infrastructure to test - but it is somebody else's project and they could test large table performance in mysql just by having tables full of random data).

        The same issues apply to other types of community-based projects. You want cheap drugs, and think open-source is the answer? Well, now you need a bunch of people with chemistry degrees and about $100k minimum worth of equipment in their basement. And even if by some miracle they come up with something how do you test it? Typically you have to pay volunteers to take your pills, and pay doctors to be bothered with handing them out. Oh, you also need to go out and inspect your doctors so that they don't just falsify reports and collect their checks without bothering with actual test subjects (it happens all the time - it would happen more if doctors didn't know that pharma companies would catch them and turn them over to the FDA - this is a punishable crime). That is one of the biggest areas of expense in pharma R&D. Similar issues apply to anything that involves physical reality - like engineering/etc. You can model a new plane on a computer, but at some point you need to build a test model and you can't do that without serious cash. Groups like the planetary society are always drawing up models for interstellar spacecraft, but there is no way to know if they'd work without testing...

        Open source software is a wonderful development and in time I think it will transform the ENTIRE industry - just give it a generation. However, until we have star trek style replicators many industries will not be able to benefit from a similar model...
        • The beauty of software is that it takes no capital to develop it...

          While I don't have any issue with the rest of your post, this sentence is just ludicrously wrong. While it's true that software development is labor intensive [wikipedia.org] rather than capital intensive [wikipedia.org] it is completely wrong to say software development requires no capital. This is true even for open source software. Computers, electricity, shelter (for the programmer), food, etc are not free. You might volunteer your time to an open source project,

        • by tshak (173364)
          The beauty of software is that it takes no capital to develop it

          By this I have to assume you mean "little capital othat than human capital". Software development is *very* costly when you consider the human capital. On the other hand, replicating and distributing software is cheap, but that's not what you pay for. You pay for the development.
        • by teslatug (543527)
          You know you could use Wikipedia as representative of the web (it has links to other articles). Some enterprising mind could use the Wikipedia database as a starting off point. Sure it's not completely like the Internet as it doesn't have as much spam in there, but like I said it's a cheap way to get started.
      • by Frankie70 (803801)

        I think searching the web is one of the few bastions where closed source still rules, and it surprises me that no-one's really made an open source search engine.


        A search algorithm is just one part of a web search engine. Equally or more important
        is the infrastructure. The amount of infrastructure is too much to imagine and the
        expertise in managing the infrastructure.

    • Re:Um (Score:5, Funny)

      by suv4x4 (956391) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:20AM (#17880408)
      Can we just all agree that Google is about as evil as the average corporation now? Or do some of you still believe that Google really is above the rest morally?

      Not until they don't change their slogan! It'll be too confusing otherwise.
    • by donaldm (919619)
      If what Google did is deemed illegal in the eyes of the law then at least the people who are involved in this should be held accountable and prosecuted, but this type of thing may be just standard (well maybe a little suspicious) business practice and nothing can be done unless the courts say otherwise.

      The problem here may be a form of ethics. It may not be illegal but it definitely puts the party in a bad light. All companies will try to do the best for said company even if it means bending the law slightl
    • by mangu (126918) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:13AM (#17880592)
      "Do no evil" is a nice motto for an individual or a privately owned company, but a publicly traded corporation is different. When you have stock traded in the market you have to maximize profits. One often thinks of "capitalists" as some faceless evil, greedy person, but in fact the capitalist is anyone who has money invested.


      When you make any sort of investment, like buying insurance or a retirement plan, you don't ask how evil the corporations are. All you want is the biggest return for the lowest price, which means the portfolios that will make your investment will be composed of stock from the companies with biggest profit.

      • by ringo74 (970328) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:29AM (#17880646)
        When you make any sort of investment, like buying insurance or a retirement plan, you don't ask how evil the corporations are. All you want is the biggest return for the lowest price, which means the portfolios that will make your investment will be composed of stock from the companies with biggest profit.

        With all due respect, sir, you speak for yourself. I *do* check the behaviour and ethical standards of the companies I purchase from or invest in. Yes, sometimes this means lesser profit. So what?

      • by GoofyBoy (44399)
        >"Do no evil" is a nice motto for an individual or a privately owned company, but a publicly traded corporation is different

        1. Regardless, Google put this in their official documents when going public. Its not us that should have known better, but its Google to live up to their standard they set.
        2. Google is not really a public compnay, most of the voting shares are held by a few individuals. Unless you are one of these people, Google could be run into the ground and there is very little you could do a
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheNetAvenger (624455)
        There is such a thing as corporate morality and ethics; you might want to go back to school if you somehow missed those classes.

        What you advocate would be no different than saying a person should rob banks and mug people because it would be financially more beneficial to them and their family, and that they should be supported in doing so and then defend them to the world when the people call them criminals.

        Criminal and corrupt is criminal and corrupt, no matter how you try to wrap a capitalistic American F
    • Re:Um (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trailwalker (648636) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:19AM (#17880610)
      This is a normal business practice. Every company checks localities for tax breaks before committing to a major investment.

      Here, in the American southeast, jobs are very important. An investment of six hundred million dollars and two hundred jobs is a fair trade for the tax break requested. And I doubt Google will have many minimum wage jobs at their new location.

      This is the same treatment given to everyone from bakeries to automobile manufacturers. All will receive tax breaks for new plants and jobs. The only question is how much.
      • Re:Um (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @11:03AM (#17880964) Journal

        The tax break isn't even that much of a loss of income for the government. If Google are employing 200 people, it works out at $15,000 per new employee. Somewhere between 30-50% of everything earned in the US eventually flows through the government in taxes (income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, etc), so if Google is paying somewhere between thirty to fifty thousand to each new employee then the government is breaking even or making a net profit.

        Of course, some of this goes to the federal government, rather than the state, but I would imagine that they are betting that Google will expand over the next thirty years, employing more people and thus generating even more tax revenue.

        This is ignoring, of course, the tax that will be paid by those people employed in construction of the new Google facilities, and any other taxes that Google will pay. I would be very surprised if the state government didn't make a significant profit out of this deal. It sounds like it's good for both parties. The only question really is why Google felt the need to keep it secret.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nomadic (141991)
        Here, in the American southeast, jobs are very important.

        While in the rest of the country, nobody cares about jobs?
    • MRS. HENDY: Oh! I never knew Schopenhauer was a philosopher!
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    • Elton John helps raise money for Gore
      September 20, 2000
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      ATHERTON, Calif. (Reuters) - Flamboyant rock star Elton John, making his first foray into American politics after three decades of performing in the United States, endorsed Vice President Al Gore at a ritzy Silicon Valley fund-raiser.

      John, the entertainer at a $10,000-a-plate dinner Tuesday, began his set with "Your Song." But before his next number, he showed his political stripes to the business leaders of
    • by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @01:02PM (#17881656) Journal
      What Google did here was to say that they did not want their competition to find out the deal. Once they do, they will want it as good or better. In fact, it is in the state's best interest to not tell either. That way, they can encourage somebody like yahoo to come in, but with less incentives. The evil comes in when you use your weight against them. For example, if Google was to say to NC that if you do not give us a good deal, we will rate other states above yours (or even to imply it). That is how MS (and to a degree yahoo) has operated. That is what evil is. But a simple negotiation is not evil.

      As to operating in a backroom approach, well, that goes on ALL the time. Nearly every company does that with states when they are seeking to come to the state. In fact, I would not be surprised if NC approached Google first, and they kept it quiet. Now, if the deal is kept quiet after the fact, or is not released prior to the congressional vote, that becomes an issue. But the article does not say (or even imply) that.
    • How do we define what is "morally right" for corporations?
    • I'll proclaim Google's sacred holiness all the way to my Chinese prison cell!
    • Re:Um (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Maxwell (13985) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @02:50PM (#17882294) Homepage
      Yeah because a 600M investment for a less than 3M tax break (per year, which 30 years from now will be worthless...) is *SUCH* a bad deal for NC!

      200 jobs at 50k per job and 15% tax rate (Sate only...) gives 1,500,000 back to NC per year anyway bringing the net 'loss' to the state of 1.5M a year, decreasing over time as salaries go up.

      It's not unusual for large corps to get 1:1 tax breakes. ie if you build a 500M car plant, you get 500M or more in tax breaks.

      If this is google being evil, they sure suck at it!

      JON
  • Results 0 - 0 for search "backhander"

    Did you mean to search for "Tax evasion"?
  • Beatup (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wombatmobile (623057) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @07:45AM (#17880286)

    The blog accuses Google of "[trying] to browbeat lawmakers".


    But the article simply states that Google, in negotiating with NC and six other states, asked for confidentiality.


    Ultimately, Google chose NC. Presumably, NC offered the best tax breaks to support 200 new jobs.


    The blogger even says "Tax breaks actually are not that unusual."


    So where is the evil?


    • Re:Beatup (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tonyquan (758115) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:11AM (#17880370)
      Sigh...do my fellow Americans understand basic civics anymore?

      In a democracy, legislatures do not draft laws under non-disclosure agreements. The proper operation of a democracy hinges on transparency. There is a strong possibility here that Google was asking the legislators to violate the open meeting or sunshine laws of their own state, which guarantee that government business is done in the open. This is why some legislators refused to sign the NDAs.

      That's where the evil is.

      • "Sigh...do my fellow Americans understand basic civics anymore?"

        I am one of the 5,700,000,000 humans who are not American.

        What do you mean by "The proper operation of a democracy"?

        • by Qzukk (229616)
          What do you mean by "The proper operation of a democracy"?

          Vote for X: yes or no.

          What's X? I'm not allowed to tell you.

          This is not the proper operation of democracy.
        • I believe the idea is that a democracy operates "properly" when the government only has/uses powers given to it through the explicit consent of the governed.
      • Hi, welcome to America. About 75 years ago, we decided that basic civics was too hard to figure out/keep on top of. We changed things around a bit so that now "the business of America is business" and that government's job is figure out inventive ways to move money from the tax base into the revenue column of a couple hundred corporations.

        This makes civics a lot easier; instead of discussing things like "rights" and government's "mandate" or "powers", you just have to ask whether companies like X in order t
      • It is not a big deal if Negotiations are done quietly. The problem comes in, when taxbreaks or laws are passed, but are hidden, or when pressure is brought by other politicians (W/Cheney WRT Halliburton and the iraqi invasion). From reading the article, it does not sound like Google was asking them to pass laws, taxbreaks in secret, just the negotiation of such.
    • Re:Beatup (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mtenhagen (450608) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:18AM (#17880402) Homepage
      They evil is with the Nondisclosure Agreement!

      The people should be able to judge how their government is acting. The fact that google is asking this is not that weird that politicians on the other hand agree is the worst part. Lets hope (I know it wont) they will notice this the next elections.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by wombatmobile (623057)

        "They evil is with the Nondisclosure Agreement!"

        The article states, "Executives didn't want anybody even to mention the company's name for fear that competitors could learn of its plans."

        And the Google guy is quoted as saying he recognizes the need for legislative due process. "We respect the legislature needs to conduct its business, to deliberate on bills," Weiss wrote in a June 7 e-mail to Hobart. But legislators must understand that the project likely will be canceled if anyone "mentions the company

        • Re:Beatup (Score:5, Insightful)

          by aussie_a (778472) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:10AM (#17880572) Journal

          That Google and NC worked through all the issues suggests... goodwill rather more than evil, wouldn't you agree?
          No it suggests that Google and the NC legislators are evil.

          If a bill is being drafted specifically for a company, then the public should know which bill it is and which company it is. If Google can't pursue the idea without those stipulations (and the fact they're requiring a special law makes me immediately say they shouldn't be pursuing the idea, I'd need to be convinced they should pursue it) then tough luck.

          The fact that the NC legislators are willingly helping Google in covering up their actions in creating a law simply spreads the evil, it doesn't negate Google's evil.
        • by GoofyBoy (44399)
          >the specific company name and project details kept confidential.

          >Those are normal requests in business negotiations.

          Not when you are dealing with government organizations. Its called Transparency. Elected officials were voting/reviewing a bill and were not given all the information.
      • by icepick72 (834363)
        The evil is with the Nondisclosure Agreement!

        Non-disclosure agreements are not a device for someone to cover their tracks. It protects business information. For example, Google has a responsibility to the board and shareholders and Wall Street to not disclose certain financial information or plans ahead of time. No doubt the elected officials would become privy to some such information during negotiations; resulting in the requirement for NDA to be used. NDAs are not evil. Google is following common busi
        • Google goes to the gov't and says 'we want tax breaks.' The gov't says 'hell no, we'll lose money.'

          So Google says 'Ah, but we're going to bring revolutionary widget X to market in six months, and even the most pessimistic of analysts and economists anticpate that not only will this make us enough revenue that we'll be paying more taxes, with the breaks, than we are now, without the breaks, but that an entire industry will grow up around this widget, as well as all of the support industries, and what not.

    • by dr.badass (25287)
      But the article simply states that Google, in negotiating with NC and six other states, asked for confidentiality.

      Why does a publicly-traded corporation, in negotiating with elected public officials, need to keep secrets from the public?

      • For the exact same reason that you, in choosing a democratic government, need to have the option of keeping your vote a secret. Or why you, an innocent person commiting no illegal acts, needs to be able to, if you wish, encrypt all of your correspondance with nigh-unbreakable methods. Or keep your library book history secret. Or any number of things.

        • by dr.badass (25287)
          For the exact same reason that you...

          I am not acting in a position of public accountability.
  • Nothing Evil there (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jack Sombra (948340) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:45AM (#17880482)
    "The results of this deal are extremely lucrative for both sides. Google brought some $600 million in investment and as many as 200 jobs to the state, and legislation enacted with Google's help is projected to save the company some $89 million in taxes over 30 years."
    Lets see, NC gets $600 Million investment that could have gone elsewhere, 200 odd new jobs (and tax revenue from employee's) that also could have gone elsewhere and it just cost them $89 million tax revenue over 30 years, tax revenue that they would probably not have got if they had not done the deal.

    Sounds like NC got the better end of the deal by a long margin

    The secrecy and nondisclosure agreements are pretty standard, for reasons that are obvious if you give it two minutes worth of consideration
    • by aussie_a (778472)

      The secrecy and nondisclosure agreements are pretty standard, for reasons that are obvious if you give it two minutes worth of consideration
      The government should not be involved in any secrecy or NDAs when creating new laws. I took your 2 minutes to consider it, and the reasons I could come up with were not worth the government secretly creating laws for a specific company.
    • Sounds like NC got the better end of the deal by a long margin

      I don't think so. $600 million, divided by 30 years, divided by 200 jobs = $100,000 per job per year.

      Why not just give $100,000 a year to 200 people and cut out the middleman?

    • by Guppy06 (410832)
      "Sounds like NC got the better end of the deal by a long margin"

      North Carolina's governor has put his signature on the tax cuts. Have there been any corresponding signatures from Google guaranteeing the investment volume bandied about? It "could" be $600 million in investments, or it might simply manifest itself as the state's population going up by 200 transplants from California.
  • do no evil (Score:3, Funny)

    by spottedkangaroo (451692) * on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:53AM (#17880510) Homepage
    Do no evil!!!! Unless you're in china or in politics, cuz then you're just trying to fit in. Right? Right?
  • Uhh So? (Score:4, Informative)

    by logicnazi (169418) <logicnazi@NosPam.gmail.com> on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:54AM (#17880514) Homepage
    This is just standard buisness practice. States compete to attract large companies with jobs and those large companies do their best to cut good deals for them.

    There is nothing even slightly unethical about this. One might argue that such a system is undesierable as it gives large companies an advantage over small companies, and their is some truth to that, but on the other hand large companies may have requirements that aren't easily dealt with in non-negotiated ways.

    So I certainly see an argument for the federal government outlawing states from making deals with companies to attract them (some sorts of tax breaks are already forbidden) google certainaly didn't do anything immoral by using the same system that everyone else does. I mean that's like arguing your a bad person for taking advantage of Bush's tax breaks just because you voted against them.
    • by aussie_a (778472)

      This is just standard buisness practice.
      Doesn't make it right. Other things that were once standard business practice include:
      * Slavery
      * Racism
      * Sexism, etc.

      We don't accept those either AFAIK.
      • by logicnazi (169418)
        Hence the reason I offered the analogy of taking tax breaks that you don't support. Do you refuse to take tax breaks that you think are bad policy?

        Slavery, Racism and sexism have very specific and compelling reasons why they are wrong. If someone engages in a perfectly legal and commonly accepted practice you have the burden of explaining what is morally wrong about it.
        • by aussie_a (778472)

          Do you refuse to take tax breaks that you think are bad policy?

          I'm not eligible for any tax breaks ;)

          Morally I think government officials shouldn't be signing NDAs when it concerns putting forth laws. If Google wants a new law, then everything the government officials have been told should be made available to the public. I think laws for specific individuals (whether good or bad) or companies are terrible ideas and much too prone to abuse and so they should be done in an extremely sparing fashion, if at all.

          • by logicnazi (169418)
            That as I said is a reasonable argument about what *government* policy should be. This justifies trying to change that policy, though as discussed in another post on this threat it is not totally clear that the advantages of demanding openness (effectively eliminating this negotation in many situations) are worth the costs. However, this does not make google's actions even questionable.

            Giving people tax breaks for owning homes is a horrible policy that encourages suburban sprawl and disadvantages those wh
          • by logicnazi (169418)
            I mean to phrase the point more simply it's like you are arguing because politics would be better off without campaign contributions or if interest groups couldn't give money you would be an evil person to make a campaign contribution or donate to your interest group.

            In fact refusing to give money to your candidates or causes, assuming you believe them to be good, would be the morally worst thing you could do. Not only do you let the candidates you think are worse gain an advantage this way you actually di
    • by Guppy06 (410832)
      "States compete to attract large companies with jobs and those large companies do their best to cut good deals for them."

      Why must it involve robbing people access to their legislators?
      • by logicnazi (169418)
        How did this involve denying people access to their legislators?

        In fact the government was doing EXACTLY what the people of the state elected them to be doing, making arrangements for the good of the people. The fact that it was negotiated in secret is no different than the fact that the congress reviews intelligence in secret.

        The public WANTS it's government to bring employers to the state. If the employers care about secrecy, as it is reasonable for many to do, the people would rather have the governmen
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Thank you for many of you to point out, that "this is just stndard business practice."

    Evil starts with "standard business practice", doesn't it?

    Governments, financed by public money, should be transparent and accountable to the public at all cost, without a very few exception.
    Corporate interest would not be one of those exceptions.

    In fact, any "standard business practice", which is trying to deform this basic political principal should be refused, reported to criminal investigation.

    Attempting to corrupt the
    • by AlXtreme (223728)
      What is amazing (to me) is that so many slashdotters are still defending Google practices (just like they did when Google did China's bidding). If Microsoft did the same thing we'd be all over them.

      Wake-up call fanboys: big corporations, big profit. Moral and ethics has nothing to do with it, as long as the shareholders remain happy.

  • Given that they are building a giant data center on the Colombia River to take advantage of cheap (but not cheap on the environment) hydro power I propose the following new slogan something along the lines of the following:

    "Download a movie (YouTube), kill a salmon."

    Perhaps someone else could make it catchier, but you get the idea.
  • Carlotte? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ka D'Argo (857749) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:42AM (#17880700) Homepage
    As a resident of "Carlotte", North Carolina my entire 25 years on this Earth, I gotta let you in on a secret; we named it Charlotte. What is this "Carlotte" you speak of? ;p
  • by bhmit1 (2270) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:43AM (#17880708) Homepage
    Sadly, this is pretty normal these days, and I don't blame Google for doing it. They have to look out for their share holders, and that involves saving money when reasonable. I only partially blame the state, since if NC didn't do this, another state would and the jobs would go that way too, making NC a worse place for their residents. But the sad thing is that small businesses are just now getting their tax bills for the year from their counties (yes, for the privilege of having a file cabinet in my office, I owe the county more money). And the tax breaks that the big businesses get are basically discrimination against smaller businesses and anti-competitive.

    We are raising barriers of entry into every large industry we create. I don't think that it's up to the states to fix this, but the federal level should pass a law banning these anti-competitive practices. No city, county, or state should have the right to change taxes on one group in such a way that it discourages competition. We should implement this similar to anti-discrimination laws that we already have to minimize the impact on the local governments right to raise money.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      I only partially blame the state, since if NC didn't do this, another state would and the jobs would go that way too, making NC a worse place for their residents.

      Actually, being from North Carolina - I wouldn't be much bothered if 'improvements' to the state, like Google, did go somewhere else. Charlotte, the Triangle, and now the Triad - one by one shifting from being pleasant Southern towns to being cramped and growing metropoli with more in common with LA than the countryside around them. The majorit

  • Sheesh, I can't believe the comments about this, that it's somehow damaging to Democracy. This sort of thing helps Deomcracy!

    One of the unique things about the United States, and a very underrated aspect that helps strengthen our economy, is the fact that we have so many states with separate governments that compete with one another. When The People (read: business) have the opportunity to negotiate directly with governments, it helps keep them in line to not create punitive and damaging (and greed) tax l

  • What happened to "do no evil"? That $89 million they'd have paid NC in taxes could go toward any number of good things -- schools, roads, etc. What Google should have asked for in this case was some input on how their $89 million in tax money was spent.
  • Google, meet Evil.

    Or perhaps more accurately, "Google, meet Hypocrisy."

  • $3M per year for a company w/ capitalization of 147.41B is not a big break. Given the fact that the state will benefit from the presence of Google, I would state that this is a win-win situation.

  • Do you have the same reaction? Why or why not?
  • by zogger (617870) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @01:24PM (#17881822) Homepage Journal
    A lot of companies do this. Look at some of the recently opened car plants (as oposed to the closed ones). They all negotiated sweetheart deals with the state and local governments.

    The real scandal here is that they can do this at all. Why should corporations be allowed to negotiate taxes? Can individuals do that? "Hello, state! I am thinking of moving to your state and being productively employed! And some of the money I make will be spent in the local economy! Promise! I will do so if you cut me some slack on property taxes and state income taxes!"

    You'd get laughed at. Scale? so what, could 200 independent single individuals do the same? Nope. But a corporation can.

    The same with those land seizures. XYZ corp wants to put in an import*mart or golf course, the local government seizes some poor guys land, forces him to move or close his business, so the bigger corp can put their crap there. Nuts. Does the opposite ever happen? "Hiya state! I want you to seize this local golf course/stripmall/sports stadium for me. I will bulldoze out all the lamer energy hog neon sign enhanced buildings and ugly crap in the way, and then plow it up at my expense with my tractor and make free community gardens, saving local consumers millions a year with the grocery bill". Go ahead, try to do something like that, see what happens.

    It is not "getting to the point", it is well past the point that governments exist to cater to large corporations for the most part. "Hiya largest government! I have a problem" You see, I have been in the entertainment redistribution business for generations. It was costly to do this, every copy cost a lot of money to reproduce and distribute, but we did it and made a lot of profit. Unfortunately recent technological advances have made this sort of business almost completely obsolete, which threatens our bottom line. It is now technically possible to do what we did in the past 100 to 1000 times cheaper, and get the product to the consumer. But we are so used to making so much net profit a "unit" for our products that we can't allow this dangerous replicator technology out there without severe restrictions on the consumers, else we would lose our traditional profit structure, and we certainly couldn't charge the 2 cents a unit that would be possible now..it's UnAmerican! So please pass laws that force our business model to stay in place in perpetuity. Oh, and we need to extend the limits on this "IP" stuff as well, after all, even with the tech restrictions, we want todo this forever! We'll get back to you once that time limit approaches again, and we'll extend it even further! Thanks! Oh ya, here's some completely unrelated huge bags of cash, just an amazing coincidence that we are handing this to you, really, no strings attached!"

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