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Questioning Google’s Extraordinary Influence over U.S. Government Decisions
Submitted by Scott Cleland on Thu, 2016-02-11 15:56
Does the impartial administration of justice, the integrity of the U.S. Government, and the oath of all federal employees to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, require that private interests not be allowed to supplant the public interest?
Is it essential that federal Inspectors General, law enforcement, Congress, the Courts, and the press all hold U.S. Government departments, agencies and employees accountable to the U.S. Constitution, the law, their oaths and ethics pledges?
Does “the press” have a right under the U.S. Constitution, and an ethical duty to their readership, listeners and viewers, to “seek truth and report it,” to hold Government, government employees and elected/appointed officials, publicly accountable to their public ethical commitments, oaths, and duties?
Is it legal, ethical or publicly defensible for one company, Google, to have several former employees or consultants enthroned in positions of influence that just happen to cover most all the parts of the U.S. Government that matter most to Google commercially?
Did all of these former senior Google employees, who apparently made most of their considerable wealth in Google stock, have to divest themselves of their Google stock, or put their portfolios in a blind trust as generally required under the government’s ethics rules, when they entered public service, given that there was no public mention of it when they were each appointed or announced?
NASA, USPTO, DOJ, FTC, FCC, and DOT/NHTSA
Are the experiences of six prominent departments or agencies -- NASA, USPTO, DOJ, FTC, FCC, and DOT/NHTSA – enough data to establish an organized pattern of private influence?
NASA: Is it just coincidence that Google’s billionaire executives are the only private citizens who enjoy the extraordinary personal, corporate, and private benefit of a having their personal/executive corporate jet fleet land, take-off, hanger, and refuel at a Federal Government facility, Moffett Federal Airfield, that just happens to be a few miles from Google’s Mountain View headquarters, under an extraordinarily favorable 60 year lease, with government subsidized jet fuel?
Is it just coincidence that the Defense Department decided to locate its first and only innovation pilot office at Moffett Field with Google? Is it another coincidence that Google enjoyed an unfair commercial time-to-market advantage over its competitors in testing its drone delivery fleet, “Project Wing,” by piggybacking NASA’s Government-only, FAA-waiver-testing-authority, that clearly prohibits waivers for commercial operations like Google’s?
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): Is it just coincidence that after Google was publicly credited with helping the President’s re-elect campaign [See: Bloomberg,Stuff.com.nz, Bloomberg,Built in Chicago,Time Magazine], and just 10 days after the 2012 Presidential election, the company which arguably faced the most patent liability and big lawsuits in the country, Google, just happened to get a patent reformer and its former Deputy General Counsel for Patents and Patent Strategy from 2003-2012, Michelle Lee, appointed to be Director of the USPTO’s Silicon Valley Office, and then quickly thereafter to the Head of the USPTO, and it just happened that later most of the biggest lawsuits that Google faced happened to get settled, and it just happened that the USPTO helped demonize many of those who brought lawsuits to defend their USPTO-approved patents as “trolls,” and it just happened that Google got more fast-track patents approved than any other company in the months after Lee was put in charge, and it just happened that the USPTO began unilaterally invalidating an extraordinary amount of existing already USPTO-approved patents, many of which involved Google’s patent liabilities?
DOJ: Is it just coincidence that after Google was publicly credited with helping the President’s re-elect campaign [See: Bloomberg,Stuff.com.nz, Bloomberg,Built in Chicago,Time Magazine], and just two weeks after the Presidential election, the U.S. DOJ appointed former Google outside antitrust counsel from 2008-2011, Renata Hesse, to be Acting Chief of DOJ’s Antitrust Division (leapfrogging the other four DOJ Antitrust Division Deputies with more seniority at the time).
Is it just a coincidence that less than 36 hours after Google’s former antitrust counsel was put in charge of the DOJ Antitrust Division, Bloomberg reported that “Google Inc. may skirt the most serious antitrust allegations under investigation,” when just a week earlier their sources familiar with the matter indicated that “FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz told Google to propose a resolution to a host of antitrust concerns in the coming days or face a lawsuit” and when three weeks before the Presidential election, Bloomberg reported “Federal Trade Commission investigators are circulating an internal draft memo that recommends suing Google for abusing its dominance of Internet search in violation of antitrust laws”?
And is it just another coincidence that just several months after the FTC shut down the biggest law enforcement investigation into Google, the DOJ shut down the next largest law enforcement investigation into Google at its first possible opportunity, when it silently let lapse the DOJ’s $500m criminal Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA) with Google, despite the public evidence that Google violated the NPA and its compliance requirements by breaking five additional laws during the NPA probation period?
FTC:Is it just coincidence that just after Google was publicly credited with helping the President’s re-elect campaign [See: Bloomberg,Stuff.com.nz, Bloomberg,Built in Chicago,Time Magazine], the FTC went from a substantial enforcer of antitrustlaw, deceptive practices law, and privacy law against Google, to largely exonerating Google of antitrust problems 68 days after the Presidential election in awkwardly closing its search-bias investigation, to not enforcing the FTC-Google privacy consent decree despite many public entreaties from many complainants, and to the point of aggressivelydefending Google publicly at Google’s secret request?
FCC:Is it just a coincidence that just a week before the FCC was on path to reclassify Google’s edge traffic as subject to its Title II common carrier regulation in its Open Internet Order redo, Google petitioned the FCC that both the FCC and the Verizon v. FCC Court were factually and legally wrong in including Google in the two-sided market of interconnection, and the FCC just happened to exempt Google et al exactly as Google requested, against the FCC’s better legal judgment?
And is it just a coincidence that in the FCC’s current AllVid set-top box proceeding, Google petitioned the FCC to propose a rulemaking that would allow Google YouTube access to all Pay TV providers programming so that Google could sell ads against their proprietary TV programming, but no Pay TV provider could sell ads against Google-YouTube’s proprietary programming, and the FCC just happened to do exactly what Google requested, and Google alone just happened to have all the inside FCC information necessary to give a technical demonstration of its FCC set-top box solution for Hill staffers within 48 hours of news that a proceeding was going forward?
Department of Transportation (DOT) & National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA):Is it just a coincidence that after massive Google PR campaign promoting its unique vision of fleets of self-driving cars with no brakes or a steering wheels because human drivers are auto safety’s enemy, in contrast to the auto industry’s vision of safety-testing incremental advances in semi and fully autonomous vehicle driving options, DOT/NHTSA are now largely championing Google’s unique self-driving car/ecosystem vision that has “no need for a human driver”?
And is it just a coincidence that DOT/NHTSA has de facto backed Google’s “moon-shot” technological approach for self-driving vehicle fleets that just happens to favor Google’s unique and dominant, cloud-based, map-dependent, machine-learning “artificial intelligence(AI) driver” approach via: a new sweeping policy statement which states: “For policymakers at all levels, the governing principal should be that technologies with proven, data-supported benefits that would make roads safer should be encouraged,” with a ten-year $4b budget request to subsidize R&D, and with a new NHTSA letter to Google informing it that Google’s AI will be considered the ‘driver’ by the U.S. Government?
Are all these decisions at six different USG Departments and “independent agencies” just a random collection of coincidences, or is this more like the coordinated behavior one would find if there was a “Boss Google” political influence machine that ensured Google’s private interests routinely supplanted the public interest?
Could the commercial value of this apparent U.S. Government policy and enforcement favoritism and reputational protection that Google has enjoyed since the 2012 Presidential election total many billions of dollars in ill-gotten revenue and/or market capitalization?
Simply, is Boss Google’s government goodies graft?
What should foreign governments think of the impartiality/integrity of U.S. Government enforcement decisions, non-decisions, and policies that benefit Google?
Lastly, if the press, Inspectors General, law enforcement, and Congressional overseers do not investigate Google’s apparent extraordinary private influence over the U.S. Government’s decisions, what would that say about the fear Boss Google and its political influence machine stokes, and about whether Americans can expect the U.S. Government to impartially administer justice and operate with integrity regarding Google?
With all these questions, don’t we need answers?
Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, an emergent enterprise risk consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Google competitors, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and also before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.
Part 1: How America Protects National Champion Google in the EU [3-5-15]
Part 2: FTC-Googlegate Scandal Repercussions in U.S. & EU [3-20-15]
Part 3: The Appearance of Google-USG Conflicts of Interest Grows [3-25-15]
Part 4: Googlegate -- The FTC Cover-up Evidence Piles Up [4-1-15]
Part 5: Googlegate II: The Evidence DOJ Made Google Criminal Case Go Away [4-8-15]
Part 6: Googlegate Email Shows FTC an Extension of Google’s Lobby/Press Operation [5-15-15]
Part 7: Google Fiber's Corporate Welfare Vigorish for running the Game [8-6-15]
Part 8: Does U.S. Antitrust Law Apply to Google? [10-27-15]
Part 9: Does U.S. Children’s Privacy Law Apply to Google? [12-3-15]
Part 10: Questioning Google’s Extraordinary Influence over U.S. Government Decisions [2-11-16]