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White House Emails Show More Extensive Improper Contact With Google

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Peter Flaherty
NLPC.org
July 23, 2010

Recent email communication between White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin (in photo), who is Google’s former head of Global Public Policy, and multiple outside individuals raise new questions about the official’s alleged circumvention of federal ethics and recordkeeping rules.

McLaughlin’s communications with Google officials and others about issues that directly benefit the company appears to be more extensive than indicated by a May White House report, which resulted in an official reprimand of Mr. McLaughlin. Click here for a 12-page pdf of the McLaughlin emails.

Administration rules expressly prohibit former lobbyist company officials like McLaughlin from involving themselves in federal policies that materially impact their former employer.  But the new emails, which NLPC obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, show a continued pattern in which Mr. McLaughlin communicates with another apparent Google lobbyist, the leader of a Google-funded organization that lobbies in support of Google’s primary area of federal interest, and the head of a nonprofit that works closely with Google lobbyists.

The topics in the email communication involve many of Google’s highest priority lobbying issues, including FTC rules on online privacy; Administration broadband policy, including Net neutrality; and intellectual property rules.

As Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Internet Policy, McLaughlin is at the policymaking nexus of virtually all of the most important Internet issues being debated in the country today. There is now no doubt – none whatsoever – that a more serious investigation of potential ethics breaches is warranted. These emails raise additional questions about whether Mr. McLaughlin’s efforts circumvented or just plain ignored federal ethics rules.

Today, we are asking Rep. Edolphus Towns, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Darrell Issa, the committee’s ranking member, to conduct a thorough investigation. Click here to download 3-page pdf of the letter. It reads, in part:

Like Halliburton in the previous Administration, Google has an exceptionally close relationship to the current Administration. No fair-minded person could look at McLaughlin’s record and not conclude that further investigation is warranted. Click here for a pdf of the letter.

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Among other things, the emails reveal:

In September 2009, McLaughlin agreed to meet with a representative of Wilmer Hale Cutler Pickering and Dorr who was a registered Google lobbyist as recently as 2008 according to Senate lobby disclosure records.  The representative, Becky Burr, proposed a meeting to discuss White House assistance in weighing in with the Federal Trade Commission on privacy regulation in ways that would appear to benefit Google.

Over a two-week period in February 2010, McLaughlin exchanged numerous emails with Free Press director Ben Scott, another prominent advocate for Net neutrality who has coordinated policy strategy with Google and attended joint meetings with Google at the FCC and White House on numerous occasions.  They agreed to meet outside the White House at a nearby coffee shop to discuss Internet policy.

From January through March of this year, several email messages relating to intellectual property issues were sent to McLaughlin from the Executive Director of a Google-funded coalition.  The emails appear to have been sent to keep McLaughlin “in the loop” regarding copyright and intellectual property issues – key policy issues for the Mountain View company.

This article was posted: Friday, July 23, 2010 at 5:43 am





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