According to emails released under the US Freedom of Information Act, Google briefed the White House on an antitrust investigation into itself, breaking a 40-year precedent of the President’s office staying out of competition issues.
It’s no smoking gun – just another small but valuable piece of evidence showing how close the ties are between Obama’s White House and the giant ad-slinger.
It was unearthed by the Google Transparency Project (GTP), which has illustrated how close Google lobbyists and the government are, and how close Obama’s team was with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the USA’s competition watchdog and telecom industry regulator.
The Project notes that every president since Nixon has stayed well clear of antitrust probes. Both the FTC and FCC are statutory arms-length agencies that report to Congress, not the POTUS. However, the historical relationship began to change, as Google realized it was pushing an open door.
More recently, the Department of Justice antitrust attorney Renata Hesse proposed a change in copyright regulation that Google might have written itself. Although Hesse is now acting attorney general for antitrust issues, as well as keeping her brief over the entertainment industry, for six years she worked at the top Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati, on cases where the law posed challenges to Google’s business practices.
“I did a lot of work for Google on [antitrust],” she admitted in 2008. Hesse now wants to change the administration of copyright in such a way that many song owners can’t refuse Google license.”
(For details, see this timeline, and marvel.)
“Some of us believe we live in an era of government by Google,” music manager Irving Azoff told Rolling Stone. “Their power to influence Washington is unprecedented.”