Lifting the covers on ‘Obamoogle’
An antitrust probe went away while Google snuggled with Obama
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.