POLITICS

Obama appoints non-registered Google lobbyist to National Science Board

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

“I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists — and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president.”

That was candidate Obama in the 2008 election. This week, President Obama appointed Google’s Vint Cerf to the National Science Board.

Vint Cerf is not officially a lobbyist. His job title at Google is “evangelist.” We happen to know that his gospel is the same as Google’s lobbying agenda, and that he preaches it to White House officials (including former Google lobbyist Andrew McLaughlin) who shape technology policy. We know this because some of those emails have come to the light through the Freedom of Information Act.

As I wrote at the time:

When one news report suggested the White House was backing away from the pro-Google regulations, Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf wrote a worried note to McLaughlin, asking, “Has there been so much flack from the Hill that you guys feel a need to back away?”…

McLaughlin knew he was barred from dealing with Google, the e-mails show. When Cerf passed him an e-mail about Google Earth and an issue regarding a border dispute in Cambodia, McLaughlin responded, “in my current position, I’m recused from anything having to do with Google.”

When I asked the White House about McLaughlin’s e-mails, Rick Weiss, a spokesman at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, responded that McLaughlin’s “e-mails to Vint did not run afoul of the pledge since Vint is a federal advisory committee member with whom Andrew is allowed to communicate on matters of relevance to that committee.”

But Cerf was using a Google.com e-mail address and writing about regulations Google was aggressively backing.

Cerf, I should add, gave about $43,000 to the Obama Victory Fund in this past election. Obama’s campaign wouldn’t have allowed these donations — and Obama wouldn’t have appointed Cerf to a board — if he were a registered lobbyist. But a lobbyist can avoid registering by either (a) spending less than 20% of his time on lobbying or (b) just counting on the fact that lobbying registration evasion is basically never prosecuted.

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