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Conflict of Interest Questions for Google CEO Schmidt as a Transition Spokesman

Google CEO Schmidt apparently is representing that he is speaking for the President-Elect's Transition today in Washington given the attached press release, which twice mentions Mr. Schmidt's membership on the "Transition Economic Advisory Board" in an otherwise very brief release. 

  • Given the perception created, conflict of interest questions are relevant and should be asked of Mr. Schmidt today. 


Perception of Conflicts with the Transition Ethics Code:

  • Was this event and Mr. Schmidt’s remarks approved by the Transition Project to represent the views of “What’s Ahead” in the new Administration?
    • The invitation for this event represents Mr. Schmidt twice as “member, President-Elect’s Transition Economic Advisory Board,” and advertises “Mr. Schmidt on What’s Ahead: technology, economic growth and Open Government” -- all important Transition matters that Mr. Schmidt and Google have a clear, direct financial interest in.
    • The Transition Project Ethics Code requires members to disqualify themselves “from any involvement in any particular…matter which… may directly conflict with a financial interest of an immediate…business relationship…. or the potential for the appearance of a conflict…
  • Doesn’t Google representing it already knows “what’s ahead” for policy matters that directly affect Google’s business -- create the perception that Google presumes its special political access will result in special policy favors for Google?  



  • Does Google consider it to be legally bound by the Bush DOJ’s November 5th antitrust enforcement action to block the proposed Google-Yahoo ad partnership -- given that both Google and Yahoo have stated the partnership would have been found legal in court?
    • Is it helpful to the New Administration’s efforts to establish the highest ethical standards and trust in Government for Google’s CEO to trumpet his political influence to the media only immediately before and immediately after an adverse enforcement action by the DOJ against Google – creating the perception that political influence is what matters, not the evidence, due process and the rule of law?


Open Government:

  • After pronouncing “What’s Ahead” for the Administration’s Open Government initiative, will Google recuse itself from participating in the procurement process that awards any Open Government contracts for search services given Google’s representation of its special influence over the creation of the policy?
  • Does Google expect the Administration’s Open Government or search services contract(s) to be competitively bid or sole source?
  • If Google seeks the Government’s outsourced search engine business, should the General Services Administration take into consideration the DOJ’s conclusion that Google tried in 2008 to illegally foreclose competition in the search syndication  (outsourcing) business in the Google-Yahoo deal? 



  • Are Google’s privacy practices compatible with the President-Elect’s goal “to strengthen privacy protections for the digital age”?
  • Are Google’s privacy practices compatible with consumers’ expectation of fair representation given that a Consumer Reports poll (9-25-08) found that “93 percent of Americans think internet companies should always ask for permission before using personal information and 72 percent want the right to opt out when companies track their online behavior”?


Good Government:

  • Will Google seek additional special arrangements with other Federal Government agencies similar to the unique private plane landing rights and parking at NASA’s Moffet airfield a few miles from Google’s Headquarters?
  • Should the details of Google’s special deal with NASA be transparent under the Open Government Initiative?