TTP Report: Eric Schmidt’s Expanding Influence Apparatus
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 22, 2022
Contact: Michael Clauw, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Campaign for Accountability (CfA) a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report detailing former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s previously unreported attempts to install his allies in key roles across the federal government. Schmidt appears to be working through the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), a respected Washington group, to advance personnel and proposals that closely align with his own interests. Schmidt is a primary benefactor of an FAS initiative that has placed at least 24 fellows in influential government posts. The report also details the revolving door between the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, a government entity chaired by Schmidt, and the Special Competitive Studies Project, a private, Schmidt-controlled entity that aims to influence government tech policy from the outside.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “Eric Schmidt—an unelected citizen—has already had an outsized influence on government policies that affect his personal investments. Through these new placements, Schmidt has found a way to keep an eye on these interests even when he himself is not sitting at the table.”
“Eric Schmidt appears to be systematically abusing this little-known set of programs to exert his influence in the federal government,” said TTP Director Katie Paul in Politico. “The question is, on whose behalf is it? Google, where he’s still a major shareholder? Is it to advance his own portfolio of investments–artificial intelligence and bioengineering or energy? The public has a right to know who is paying their public servants and why.”
Schmidt appears to be relying on a program dating back to the 1970s which was originally intended to help federal agencies hire outside experts on a short-term basis to place likeminded individuals in key government positions. “This is a misuse of a government program intended to provide the government with much-needed scientific expertise,” Ms. Kuppersmith said.
A “talent hub” launched in 2021 by FAS’s Day One Project appears to help many Schmidt affiliates find placements within the federal government. TTP has identified at least 24 people placed in influential government posts through the talent hub. Two of them explicitly identify themselves as Schmidt fellows, and FAS appears to have taken steps to conceal the identity of a third Schmidt-linked fellow shortly after Politico published a story about Schmidt’s ties to federal employees.
Schmidt Futures—Eric Schmidt’s “philanthropic venture,” a for-profit entity operated by a Delaware LLC—appears to be the leading force behind the Day One Project. In addition to helping place Schmidt confederates in government, the Day One Project has advocated for billions of dollars in government funding for projects that closely resemble existing Schmidt initiatives.
Schmidt has close ties to the FAS leadership. The chairman of the board of the federation, Gilman Louie, was a member of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which Schmidt chaired, and a consultant to the Defense Innovation Board, which he also led. As TTP first reported, Louie is also leading Schmidt’s new investment vehicle, America’s Frontier Fund.
In another sign of his growing influence operation, Schmidt has hired most of the staff of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI), a government body he led from 2018 to 2021, to work on the Special Competitive Studies Project, a private venture he recently launched. The new initiative’s revolving door with government has not been previously reported.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “An unelected person holding this much influence over government hiring is an ethical disaster waiting to happen. As a private citizen, Eric Schmidt is under no obligation to disclose all of his financial interests. All we know is that he is effectively paying the salaries of government employees who can influence policies that enrich him.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, 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.