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Odd coalition opposes Google-Yahoo ad plan

May 10, 2008|Joseph Menn | Times Staff Writer

Internet search king Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. have yet to agree on a deal to put some Google ads next to Yahoo search results. But their discussions have already provoked objections from an unusually diverse set of Washington players. In fact, it is safe to say that the American Corn Growers Assn. has never before joined forces with the Dominican American Business Network.

Those and 14 other nonprofit organizations sent a joint letter to the Justice Department on Friday asking for an antitrust investigation of the possible Google-Yahoo alliance, which they said "threatens to undermine privacy and consumer choice, increase consumer prices, irreversibly damage online competition, and hurt small and medium businesses across the country."

A lead author of the missive is the Black Leadership Forum Inc., which has a membership made up of such groups as the NAACP and National Urban League.

Forum Chief Executive Gary Flowers said he suggested the letter for the same reason he opposed the combination of the two major satellite radio providers.

"Mega-mergers in the U.S. tend to have a deleterious effect on the minority community, both from a consumer-pricing standpoint and from an access-to-contracts perspective," Flowers said.

Keith Bolin, an Illinois farmer and president of the American Corn Growers, said "the bottom line is that any time corporate America is taking advantage of consumers, especially rural consumers, we don't want to stand by and not say a word."

The Corn Growers Assn. is supported through membership fees; the Black Leadership Forum takes corporate donations, though Flowers said the donors did not include the best-connected opponent of Google's potential partnership with Yahoo: Microsoft Corp. Flowers said Microsoft, Yahoo's thwarted suitor, played no role in writing the letter.

But a public-relations professional who called national media to alert them to the groups' protest letter said his firms' clients did include Microsoft.

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joseph.menn@latimes.com

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