Lift­ing the cov­ers on ‘Obamoogle’

An an­titrust probe went away while Google snug­gled with Obama

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Tammy Bruce

Dur­ing this past week as we’ve been swamped with bad news pour­ing out of ev­ery cor­ner of the globe, it wouldn’t be sur­pris­ing if you missed one of the more shock­ing rev­e­la­tions about White House ac­tions that would make even Richard Nixon blush. The Wall Street Jour­nal re­vealed that it had ob­tained a 2012 Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion re­port de­tail­ing the close­ness of Google and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion while the FTC was en­gag­ing in an an­titrust in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the In­ter­net gi­ant.

It’s usu­ally the case that you get more in­ter­est­ing in­for­ma­tion when the de­tails were sup­posed to re­main se­cret, and that’s the case here. The FTC, re­spond­ing to an open-records re­quest, accidentally sent 160 pages of a pri­vate 2012 re­port to the The Wall Street Jour­nal, de­tail­ing their an­titrust in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Google.

What was dis­closed paints a pic­ture of un­usual ac­tiv­ity be­tween the White House, Google and the FTC while the an­titrust in­ves­ti­ga­tion was be­ing con­ducted. Ul­ti­mately, the FTC staff rec­om­mended bring­ing a law­suit against Google on an­titrust grounds. De­spite this, the com­mis­sion voted 5-0 against charges.

Most of the head­lines fo­cus on the num­ber of vis­its Google ex­ec­u­tives and lob­by­ists made to the White House dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Even the news­pa­per in its cov­er­age cast the events as a “sign of the In­ter­net gi­ant’s reach in Wash­ing­ton” im­ply­ing that ac­cess to the Obama White House is some sort of a byprod­uct of over­all in­flu­ence.

But in this case, that’s plac­ing the cart well be­fore the horse.

Since Pres­i­dent Obama took of­fice, The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ports, em­ploy­ees of Google “have vis­ited the White House for meet­ings with se­nior of­fi­cials about 230 times, or an av­er­age of roughly once a week.” Google’s top lob­by­ist had more than 60 meet­ings at the White House. That’s more meet­ings than most of Mr. Obama’s Cabi­net mem­bers.

For White House watch­ers, none of this should be a sur­prise. One of the peo­ple stand­ing next to Mr. Obama at his first press con­fer­ence af­ter win­ning the 2008 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was Eric Sch­midt, the ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Google. While Mr. Sch­midt is not on record do­nat­ing to an Obama cam­paign, Na­tional Public Ra­dio re­ports, “Eric Sch­midt’s wife, Wendy, gave Obama’s cam­paigns $47,600. And Wendy Sch­midt got be­hind Obama’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer early, do­nat­ing $2,000 to his Se­nate run in 2004.”

But some con­tri­bu­tions are priceless and high­light the na­ture of the com­mit­ment to Mr. Obama by one com­pany. On the night of the Novem­ber 2012 elec­tion, Mr. Sch­midt per­son­ally han­dled the cus­tom voter-turnout soft­ware for Mr. Obama. By the end of that elec­tion month, The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ports, the FTC de­cided to not file charges against Google.

Dur­ing the 2012 re-elec­tion cam­paign, Google em­ploy­ees were the sec­ond-largest source of cam­paign dona­tions to the Obama cam­paign, re­ports the Daily Caller.

Per­haps Google should just change its name to Obamoogle, but it wouldn’t be the first time a cor­po­ra­tion has cur­ried the fa­vor of an ad­min­is­tra­tion. Be­tween lob­by­ists and po­lit­i­cal dona­tions, and even long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ships, Amer­i­cans have seen how some com­pa­nies man­age to se­cure Most Fa­vored Na­tion-type re­la­tion­ships with pres­i­dents and their ad­min­is­tra­tions.

Who can for­get the hys­ter­ics of the left, be­moan­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Hal­libur­ton and the Ge­orge W. Bush White House? Yet, there are no com­plaints from the left about Mr. Obama’s in­creas­ing re­liance on Google and its ex­tra­or­di­nary ac­cess to his ad­min­is­tra­tion. In fact, some lib­er­als, in­clud­ing one with whom I ap­peared on Fox News about this sub­ject, ex­plained away this as noth­ing new, it hap­pens all the time, and it’s just the way Wash­ing­ton works.

Well, not re­ally. This is wholly dif­fer­ent. Spe­cial re­la­tion­ships are one thing, and work­ing di­rectly on the pres­i­dent’s re-elec­tion cam­paign only to have a fed­eral agency walk away from a fed­eral law­suit that same month is quite an­other.

All par­ties, of course, deny that any of the ac­tiv­ity be­tween Google and the White House had any­thing to do with the FTC’s de­ci­sion to not sue the com­pany. At the same time, the agency re­fuses to re­lease the rest of the re­port that was accidentally sent to The Wall Street Jour­nal. Even with this in­com­plete pic­ture, Amer­i­cans should be ex­tremely con­cerned over the ap­pear­ance that if you help Barack Obama with what he wants, the rule of law will bend, or even break, for you.

This rev­e­la­tion about the in­ten­sity of the Oba­maGoogle merger also helps ex­plain the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to reg­u­late the In­ter­net us­ing the pre­text of “net neu­tral­ity.” The big­gest win­ners of that ac­tion? Obama sup­port­ers Google (through YouTube) and Net­flix, which now con­sume at least 50 per­cent of In­ter­net band­width.

Google has lit­er­ally been at Mr. Obama’s side from the be­gin­ning of his pres­i­dency. They now are the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy. Th­ese days on the do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional front, it’s be­com­ing more and more dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine for whom Mr. Obama works.

Tammy Bruce is a ra­dio talk-show host, au­thor and Fox News con­trib­u­tor.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY ALEXANDER HUNTER/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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