Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) called on the White House to develop a more robust ethics program in light of the numerous meetings between former Google executives who became White House officials and their former colleagues. The timing and frequency of these meetings suggest the White House officials may have violated President Obama’s revolving door ban. CfA also raised concerns with the level of communication and apparent coordination between the White House internet adviser and Google, particularly surrounding the FTC’s decision not to bring antitrust charges against the company.
At least four current and former White House officials, including Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, may have violated the president’s ethics restrictions. All four officials worked at Google immediately before joining the Obama administration and, according to White House visitor logs, each met with former Google colleagues shortly after coming to the White House.
The White House visitor logs also reveal a flurry of visits and communications just before the FTC announced it was closing its antitrust investigation of Google without bringing charges. R. David Edelman, who leads digital and internet policy for the White House, met with Google officials on 28 different occasions. Most significantly, Mr. Edelman appears to have acted as a conduit between Google and the White House, as reflected in numerous email exchanges he had with Google lobbyist Johanna Shelton. He contacted Ms. Shelton by email just minutes before the FTC announced in January 2013 it was closing its antitrust investigation of Google.
CfA asked the White House to develop a more robust ethics process aimed at avoiding not only actual conflicts, but also those situations that present the appearance of a conflict or impropriety.
CfA is nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.