The New York Times is reporting that Google’s head of global public policy, Andrew McLaughlin, is headed to Washington, DC to join the Obama administration. Considering CEO Eric Schmidt’s position on PCAST (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) some are wondering if there isn’t a tether attached to the Google Mothership in Mountain View that might raise some eyebrows.
The Times reports
Mr. McLaughlin will be deputy chief technology officer, reporting to Aneesh Chopra, the chief technology officer, who was previously Virginia’s secretary of technology, said these people, who agreed to speak only if their names were not used because Mr. McLaughlin’s appointment had not been announced.
Mr. McLaughlin’s move is likely to renew concerns among some Google rivals and public policy groups about Google’s growing clout in Washington.
Of course, having this story hit late on a Friday afternoon while most folks are thinking weekend and not monopoly (unless of course they are playing the board game at the beach) can cause some suspicion. Intentional? Who knows but it’s definitely not outside the realm of possibility.
The roster of former Googlers in the nation’s capital with far reaching power also includes
Katie Stanton, a former Google project manager, joined the White House as its director of citizen participation. And Sonal Shah, former head of global development at Google.org, now heads the White House Office of Social Innovation.
So this gives the weekend conspiracy theorist types something to nibble on for sure. Antitrust and Google have been closely associated in the recent past regarding the Google and Apple board issue and a recent settlement agreement made with authors and publishers.
So let’s let Google say their part
In a statement, Google said: “We understand that in order to be successful in Washington we need relationships on both sides of the aisle, and we have worked over the past few years to strengthen those relationships. As for a small handful of Googlers leaving the company to join the administration, we respect their decision to work in public service and wish them all the best in their new and exciting jobs.”
Great crafting of this message. When you say it’s just a small handful of people who have left Google to work in public service it sounds so altruistic. In Washington, however, you don’t need a lot of bodies to wield influence. You need position. Google has that now with their former players sitting in positions of influence. Oh, and that little thing about their CEO being on PCAST? Well, he’s not a former employee so I guess he doesn’t count?
Whether this results in some form of advantage for Google is unlikely to ever be found out unless something really obvious (read: a huge mistake) occurs. Until then it’s a matter of opinion. What’s yours? Too much Google in the Capital? Is this a non-issue?