As President-elect Trump prepares to take office, tech behemoth Google has changed course, now trying to align itself with the incoming Republican administration after backing Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.
Watchdog.org reported extensively last year on Google’s cozy relationship with the Obama administration, from a lobbyist’s frequent visits to the White House to the number of employees who have transitioned from Google to the Obama administration and vice versa.
The company also has amped up its influence of Congress, becoming one of the most influential tech lobbyists and provider of campaign contributions in the United States.
Shortly after Trump’s win, the Mountain View, California-based company posted a listing for a conservative outreach manager, Bloomberg noted. Google sought a D.C. veteran to “act as liaison to conservative, libertarian and free market groups.”
No matter the ideological disposition of a company’s leadership, it’s not at all unusual for big lobbying shops to include advocates of both political parties — just in case.
Bloomberg pointed out that Trump’s position on several issues important to Google, including autonomous vehicles, telecommunications rules and antitrust concerns, is uncertain.
Watchdog has reported on the favorable one-touch, make-ready policies for utility poles that city leaders in Louisville and Nashville have created for Google’s broadband division, Google Fiber. As the nation looks to overhaul its broadband infrastructure, such issues are likely to come into play on the national stage.
Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, was strongly in the Clinton camp, and was photographed wearing a staff badge at a Clinton rally in New York during the evening of the election. WikiLeaks obtained emails showing Schmidt’s eagerness to help get the former secretary of state elected, and it’s no surprise, given Google’s ties to Clinton.
Campaign for Accountability, which has compiled the Google Transparency Project exposing many of the ties between Google and the Obama administration, showed the reasons Google expected to curry similar favor with Clinton if she were elected:
Alphabet Inc. gave $1.56 million to the Clinton campaign, nearly double that donated by Microsoft, the next highest corporate sponsor.
Google has provided $9.6 million in grants to the Clinton Global Initiative, a project of the Clinton Foundation.
Google has hired at least 19 officials who worked in the State Department under Clinton, including Jared Cohen, who served on Clinton’s policy planning staff.
Schmidt admitted days after the election at the New York Times’ annual Dealbook conference that he supported the Clinton side and was “surprised” by the presidential election result.
“I completely congratulate the next president of the United States,” he said. “Most people did not expect this outcome. And it is a pretty amazing story.”
At the conference, Schmidt talked about how Trump could work with Silicon Valley.
“The top five most valuable companies in America today are Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft,” he said. “What do each and every one of those companies need? High value, highly educated, high quality levels of immigration.”
Joshua Wright, long an ally of Google, is in charge of the transition team at the Federal Trade Commission. The Intercept noted Wright is “pulling off the rare revolving-door quadruple-play,” having moved from academic work supported by Google to FTC commissioner, back to Google-supported work and now back to the federal government.
As a George Mason University law professor, Wright wrote at least four academic papers while being funded by Google that argued the company hadn’t violated antitrust laws by favoring its own sites in search engine results.
After Wright became a FTC commissioner in 2013, he recused himself from any cases involving Google for two years. He returned to George Mason in August 2015, but also began working with the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Google’s primary outside law firm.
Now Wright could very well be named chairman of the FTC in the coming months.
Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, an independent watchdog championing good government reforms, told Watchdog.org that Google’s efforts are standard with a new president being inaugurated.
“Welcome to Washington,” he said. “It’s customary to try to curry favor with whoever is in power. It’s no surprise that Google is making an effort to have good relationships with people in the Trump administration.”
Despite Google’s support of Clinton, and Trump’s tendency to hold grudges, the tech behemoth may very well succeed in its efforts to imbed itself in the new power structure. Given the amount of power that is delegated, the key is developing those cozy relationships with administration members, Amey noted, and he said there are plenty of consulting firms in D.C. with strong relationships with the GOP that would be eager to work with Google.
That could include Google-funded groups like the R Street Institute, a free-market oriented public policy think tank whose financial systems study director, Alex Pollock, is serving on the Trump transition team.
“They’ll do their best to influence policy,” Amey said of Google, “and we’ll see how that goes.”
This article originally appeared at Watchdog.org.
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