Forget about the Supreme Court nomination battle. President Barack Obama’s reported pick for the seemingly uncontroversial job of deputy chief technology officer is drawing fire.
A pair of consumer advocacy groups sent the White House a letter on Wednesday urging the administration not to appoint Google’s Andrew McLaughlin to the post, a move reported to be in works by several media outlets.
McLaughlin is Google’s director of global public policy. That means he has been “responsible for Google’s worldwide lobbying efforts,” said the letter from Consumer Watchdog and Center for Digital Democracy.
Obama has issued an executive order barring anyone who has worked as a lobbyist in the past two years from serving in a federal agency that they lobbied.
McLaughlin was last registered as a lobbyist in 2007, the groups said — that might soon avoid the two year ban on technical grounds, but it violates the intent of the ban. And the groups note that the statement of organization for Google’s political action committee from March 2009 lists McLaughlin as its assistant treasurer and its designated agent.
A Google spokesman said that McLaughlin was mistakenly listed as a lobbyist in 2007 and that Google filed an amended disclosure form in 2008 correcting the filing when the company realized that he did not meet the threshold for lobbyist, which includes spending 20 percent of an individual’s time in direct contact with members of Congress.
Google has proven to be a bit of a feeder to the Obama White House. Katie Stanton, the White House director of citizen participation, is a former Google project manager. Sonal Shah, the erstwhile head of global development at Google.org, now heads White House Office of Social Innovation.
And of course, Google CEO Eric Schmidt serves on Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
Meanwhile, Google is the subject of various federal inquiries and investigations. The latest involves hiring practices among various Silicon Valley firms.
There have been reports that some of the noise about Google’s ties to the White House bears the fingerprints of Google competitors, like Microsoft.
Consumer Watchdog and Center for Digital Democracy officials both said they have no affiliation or financing from Microsoft, or any other corporation.
CDD Executive Director Jeffrey Chester said he first learned of the potential McLaughlin appointment after receiving an unsolicited e-mail with a news article on the subject from a Microsoft “political person.” He said he would have seen the article anyway and has had no subsequent communication with the person.
The consumer groups say their beef with McLaughlin has nothing to do with the fact that he is a Googler.
“The problem is that he has been a lobbyist for the biggest digital marketing company in the world, and we believe no special-interest connected person should assume a position of vital important to the country’s future,” reads the letter.
“It would be just as inappropriate for a lobbyist from Microsoft, Yahoo or any other similar technology company to be appointed Deputy Chief Technology Officer.”