Google Executives Bound For Obama Administration?
Google CEO Eric Schmidt, to no one’s surprise, officially endorsed Senator Barack Obama for President, a “natural evolution” from his current informal campaign advisor role. Though he says it’s a personal thing, and not an official Google endorsement, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Googler stumping for the other side.
Vint Cerf, Google VP and self-described Cofounder of the Internet, uploaded a video endorsement to YouTube last week; Sergey Brin and Larry Page are known Democrats (no intention of tone in the language there, though it comes out as if to say they are openly something scandalous, known furries, and such); Google employees have contributed just shy of $500,000 to Obama versus almost $21,000 for McCain. Nothing unusual or wrong about favoring Obama—heck, it’s become very fashionable even among conservatives lately (see: Christopher Buckley, George Will, Kathleen Parker, Colin Powell, et alia).
And while all that Obama love emanating from within the Googleplex strictly may be personal affections in financial form, there are definite perks for both the top Google echelon and Google the company if an Obama administration takes shape.
Cerf made it very clear he was supporting Obama because of the senator’s support for Network Neutrality, which McCain opposes. During the primaries, both candidates made an appearance at the Googleplex. While McCain simply replied he preferred the market take care of it (a response revealing either philosophical consistency that happens to match telco opposition to Net Neutrality or that he understood neither the market as it applies to the Internet nor the concept of Net Neutrality itself—it would be interesting to see if he invokes tubes and dump trucks like a certain other infamous, aging Alaska senator), Obama laid out his technology plan in pretty clear fashion. It involved protecting Net Neutrality, government transparency via the Web, expanding broadband access, and establishing a Chief Technology Officer for the country, or, as these positions are more deplorably labeled, a Technology Czar.
Guess who is on the short list for that spot? Cerf, for one, but also Steve Ballmer, Jeff Bezon, Ed Felten, and yes, Schmidt, who’ll be on the Florida trail today with Obama. Just a guess, but Cerf is probably a better bet if Schmidt meant his unequivocal “Hell no!” when asked if he were officially joining the political arena.
McCain has at least one major Internet billionaire on his side, former eBay chief Meg Whitman, while eBay founder Pierre Omidyar throws stones from the Twitter sidelines. Instead of any technology position, though, McCain mentioned Whitman as a possible Treasury Secretary. eBay, it seems, would see little direct benefit as a result of these associations.
Google, on the other hand, “personal” endorsements from its executives or not, stands to gain big time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—and all ethical ducks appear to be in their neat little rows—because so far Google’s public policy stances simultaneously have matched the corporation’s own goals with the good of the public, a striking contrast to Google’s opponents on the other side of the Internet and spectrum pipes.* An Obama administration makes Net Neutrality more likely, which benefits any company doing business on the Internet, just not those in the business of providing Internet to do business on. It also means, if the tech czar is granted access to the FCC, more influence over spectrum auctions and telco regulation.
And then there’s the little matter of the Department of Justice’s pending antitrust investigation of the Google Yahoo deal. While the DOJ, technically and ideally, is removed from the political process, Obama’s predecessor has effectively shredded any separation of police and state. So, I guess we’ll see.
We’ll also see if Google is able to maintain its “officially neutral” status while a Google VP is CTO of the country, and while its CEO, who doesn’t want to enter the political arena, happily travels with the Hope Express and credits YouTube as being a major Internet force responsible for bringing “the end of Rovian politics.”
Well, at least that’s good, if it’s really the end at least.
*No, spectrum doesn’t have pipes. These are imaginary, metaphorical-type pipes meant to invoke memories of double-dipping telco CEOs.