@andreworlowski: Google had Obama’s ear on antitrust probe

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.”

Read the post on The Register

 

 

 

@GTP_Updates: White House Kept Close Tabs on FTC Google Antitrust Probe

Aide met twice with company’s antitrust counsel in final weeks of investigation.

“Obviously, lots of interest here at the WH.”

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White House internet advisor R. David Edelman

Newly-uncovered emails show the White House was closely tracking the outcome of the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust probe of Google, with an official contacting Google’s lobbyist shortly before the agency’s decision to settle the case.

Despite assurances by the White House that it didn’t discuss the law-enforcement matter with Google, emails show the White House’s internet advisor, R. David Edelman, contacted a Google lobbyist, Johanna Shelton, in advance of the FTC announcement in January 2013.

344d20ad00000578-3595166-image-a-35_1463505561675Google White House Lobbyist Johanna Shelton

The White House aide requested Google’s talking points and hinted at the high-level engagement on the issue. “I hear big news coming momentarily,” he wrote, adding: “Obviously, lots of interest here at the WH.”

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The Obama White House has long maintained it stayed out of the FTC’s Google investigation and respected the agency’s independence. After The Wall Street Journal detailed a flurry of White House meetings with Google executives preceding the settlement, a White House spokesperson said the FTC was “an independent agency and we respect their independent decision making.”

“Our staff is cognizant that it is inappropriate to discuss issues relating to regulatory enforcement,” she added.

However, the new emails show a White House aide discussed the FTC’s decision ahead of its announcement and informed the target of the investigation that the White House was closely monitoring the outcome. They add to a pattern of engagement with Google by White House officials in the lead-up to the settlement, including repeated meetings with Google’s antitrust lawyers in the final stretch of the probe.

The meetings came on the heels of President Obama’s successful re-election campaign in which Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt had played an important role. The White House also met repeatedly with top FTC officials during that period.

Edelman was an important and highly sympathetic conduit between Google and the White House, emails and meeting records show. Data compiled by the Google Transparency Project show that Edelman met with Google officials in the White House on at least 18 different occasions between 2012 and 2015, second only to President Obama and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park. His emails show he also met repeatedly with Google lobbyists at coffee shops dotted around Washington DC.

Read the post on Google Transparency Project.

@harryfoxdavies: Revealed: how Google enlisted members of US Congress it bankrolled to fight $6bn EU antitrust case

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Google enlisted members of the US congress, whose election campaigns it had funded, to pressure the European Union to drop a €6bn antitrust case which threatens to decimate the US tech firm’s business in Europe.

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The coordinated effort by senators and members of the House of Representatives, as well as by a congressional committee, formed part of a sophisticated, multimillion-pound lobbying drive in Brussels, which Google has significantly ramped up as it fends off challenges to its dominance in Europe.

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Google DC White House Fixer             Ginny Hunt

 

Read the post on The Guardian.