Obama officials violate ethics pledge, meet with top lobbyist Google

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 by

On January 21, 2009, Obama issued Executive Order 13490, “Ethics Commitments By Executive Branch Personnel.”

The “Revolving Door Ban” section of the order states appointees “will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.”

The EO is not worth the paper it is written on.

At least four White House staffers who previously worked for tech giant Google met with former coworkers within a year of leaving the corporation, reports Watchdog, a non-profit at the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.

The officials include Megan Smith, Alex Macgillivray and Mikey Dickerson.

The prohibited meetings were discovered when two databases, the Revolving Door database and the White House Meetings database, were compared.

The data shows four White House officials held at least 19 meetings with Google employees and the meetings occurred within a year of the officials leaving the corporation. Two of the officials met with former coworkers the same month they transitioned from Google to the White House.

None of the officials are on a list of people granted waivers to the pledge.

Campaign for Accountability said the meetings “raise questions about President Obama’s commitment to keep business interests from exercising undue influence on his administration,” notes Watchdog.

It isn’t the first time White House officials met with former coworkers. In 2010, Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin, a former Google employee, was reprimanded for professional email exchanges and for violating restrictions on contacts with the corporation.

Techpresident noted at the time:

Most notable among the latter were a pair of conversations with the Director of U.S. Public Policy for Google about mobilizing Google’s resources to respond to negative press mentions. Those breaches, according to a memo by OSTP Director John Holdren, “implicated” the Federal Records Act and the President’s Ethics Pledge signed by McLaughlin upon his employment as an Obama administration point person on innovation and Internet policy, within the White House Office of Technology and Science Policy.

Google’s relationship with the Obama administration is remarkably close. Over the last seven years, the tech giant has provided expertise, services, advice and personnel for vital government projects, according to a report by The Intercept. “No other public company approaches this degree of intimacy with government,” writes David Dayen.

Over the last few years, Google has pulled out all the stops in its Washington lobbying effort.

In 2015, it spent $16.7 million on government influence peddling, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It has remained near or at the top of corporations in lobbying expenses since 2012.

“But direct expenditures on lobbying represent only one part of the larger influence-peddling game. Google’s lobbying strategy also includes throwing lavish D.C. parties; making grants to trade groups, advocacy organizations, and think tanks; offering free services and training to campaigns, congressional offices, and journalists; and using academics as validators for the company’s public policy positions. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, was an enthusiastic supporter of both of Obama’s presidential campaigns and has been a major Democratic donor,” writes Dayen.

 

Sources:

The White House

Watchdog

Techpresident

The Intercept


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