Google’s unprecedented Obama Administration influence and its self-serving anti-employment, anti-property, and pro-regulatory policy agenda, are on a collision course with the job-creating, pro-property, deregulatory Trump Administration growth agenda.
Keep watch to see who adapts to whom and how.
I. Google’s Unprecedented Lobbying Influence
Current Alphabet-Google Chairman Eric Schmidt enjoys the privilege of being the onlycorporate leader of a publicly-traded company on the President’s nineteen member Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
Coincidentally, former Google Senior Engineer from 2006-2013, Mikey Dickerson, is Deputy U.S. Chief Information Officer and Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service, a new organization and position.
Renata Hesse, Google’s former outside antitrust defense counsel, is coincidentally now Acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, who coincidentally is the lead liaison with EU antitrust authorities concerning the EU’s three pending monopolization cases against Google.
Former Google Deputy General Counsel and head of patents and patent strategy from 2003-2012, Michelle Lee, is coincidentally now Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, who coincidentally joined the USPTO just when Google faced several new serious patent lawsuits.
And coincidentally yet again, the U.S. Register of Copyright, Maria Pallante, just got fired coincidentally after she disagreed with Renata Hesse and Google’s position on a music copyright consent decree and with the FCC-Google position that FCC authority should supersede copyright in the FCC’s Set-Top Box rulemaking.
Coincidentally, Google employees visited the Obama White House 427 times per White House Logs including 128 visits coincidentally by Google’s lobbyist Joanna Shelton alone, many more times than any other special interest.
And a final coincidence, Google also has generated the most “revolving door” moves of any company with this Administration with 251 Google employees either entering the government or government employees joining Google, according to the Google Transparency Project.
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.”
Thanks to the Google Transparency Project, we know that Google’s capture of the Antitrust Division of the Justice [sic] Department is not just about Google’s hatred of the music business–we’re all just roadkill on the Information Superhighway.
That’s the important thing to remember–it’s not just us. Google is shamelessly using its lobbying clout in the White House to advance its corporate agenda. The question must be asked–why do they get away with it? What is the quid for the pro quo?
Google executives and nonprofits they funded dominated US delegation. Company maneuvered behind scenes with White House to derail State Department diplomatic effort
Newly-uncovered emails show Google used its deep connections in the Obama White House to mold U.S. policy at a United Nations-sponsored international telecommunications conference with big implications for its bottom line.
Before, during, and after the event, Google officials met and spoke with White House officials to coordinate their strategies for obtaining the company’s policy goals, the emails show. Behind the scenes, the company even pressed its contacts at the White House to quash an effort by the U.S. State Department to forge a compromise deal with other nations in defiance of the company’s wishes.
Google chairman Eric Schmidt — who had played an important role in President Obama’s re-election campaign the previous month — even called the office of Hillary Clinton, then-secretary of state, to lobby her on the issue.
On December 11, 2012, Google’s head of international relations, Ross LaJeunesse, emailed the White House internet advisor, David Edelman to express concern about the State Department and WCIT-12 delegate Ambassador Terry Kramer reaching a deal:
Edelman replied the next afternoon on December 12 2012: “I understand that Eric [Schmidt] personally called Secretary Clinton’s office, which was an impressive show of force.”
An hour later, LaJeunesse responded, “hey, i don’t mess around…”
The emails offer a rare glimpse inside a White House being heavily lobbied by a company with which it has unusually close relations. They offer more evidence of the cozy relationship between Google and the Obama White House, showing officials working in tandem with Google employees to secure Google’s preferred policy outcomes at the 2012 Dubai World Conference on International Telecommunications, or WCIT-12 for short.
Imagine what we would find if anyone could ever get access to Renata Hesse’s government emails?
Google’s influence machine extends beyond its courtship of politicians and government officials. A new analysis by Campaign for Accountability shows academics and experts funded by Google have played a major role at academic and government conferences, debating some of the company’s core issues, such as privacy and antitrust laws. Nearly all of them failed to disclose their financial ties to conference attendees. [Download this report as a PDF]
CfA compiled information on participants at three major policy conferences held this year about privacy and antitrust issues that ostensibly were organized to “bring together a diverse group of stakeholders.”[i] In fact, CfA found that many of the speakers at the conferences—arranged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), George Mason University (GMU), and Princeton University—had financial ties to Google.
- More than half of the speakers at the FTC’s PrivacyCon (22 of 41) were funded by Google, either directly through grants or indirectly through their institutions.
- More than half of the research papers presented at PrivacyCon (11 of 19) had an author with financial ties to Google.[ii] Only one disclosed the Google funding.[iii]
- Four of five speakers at George Mason University’s panel on the global antitrust investigations of Google received funding from Google.[iv]
- Five of seven panelists at Princeton University’s broadband privacy workshop received support from Google.[v]
A review of the conferences found that the Google-funded academics are playing an outsized role in the debate over the US government’s policy on internet privacy, a rapidly evolving area and an existential issue for Google. They are also often at the epicenter of policy research on antitrust issues in the age of digital platforms, another issue in which Google has a major stake.