Brody Mullins of the Wall Street Journal writes that the paper has obtained e-mails and visitor logs which appear to show that various Google executives visited the White House and met government officials 230 times in 8 years. Current CEO Eric Schmidt counts among those visitors, and the timing of their visits was sometimes intriguing.
Influencing official policy?
Some meetings took place just weeks before the FTC settled its 2012 anti-trust lawsuit with Google, which saw the commission back down from one of the biggest anti-trust cases since it took on Microsoft in the 90s. The documents do not reveal anything about the content of the meeting, and the FTC has moved to deny any links with the settlement, maintaining that it operates independently.
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The White House also denied any link, with spokesperson Jennifer Friedman telling WSJ that the government was “cognizant that it is inappropriate to discuss issues relating to regulatory enforcement.” Although officials have spoken out on the matter, the case still provides hints of just how influential Google has become.
Tech giant infiltrating the seat of U.S. power
It could be argued that Google’s significant presence as a lobbyist was a factor in allow it to shake off a potentially industry-changing anti-trust lawsuit, and the WSJ claims that Google’s influence continues to increase. Comcast was the only company that outspent Google on lobbying last year, and its executives have only made 20 visits to the White House in the past few years.
Further evidence of Google’s influence is provided by the fact that former employees of the tech giant have been taking up high-powered spots in the White House. In the latest instance, former Google VP Megan Smith was appointed as the new chief of technology officer for the Obama administration.
It is widely predicted that another investigation into Google’s search practices will be undertaken in the near future. The WSJ has also reported that the settlement in the 2012 anti-trust lawsuit was made because FTC officials were unsure whether to sue the company, thanks in large part to Google’s large stake in the White House.