Government watchdogs and outside experts have long warned that Google had unprecedented and unfiltered access to the Obama White House, which has been a major beneficiary of Google’s massive campaign coffers.
Now, for the first time, two key parts of that entangled relationship, the extensive White House visits and revolving door between Google and the Obama administration, have been documented by the Campaign for Accountability and the Intercept, an investigative news outlet.
“It’s a relationship that bears watching,” Anne Weismann, the head of the Campaign for Accountability told the Intercept. Weismann’s group is starting a project that will bring more attention to Google’s role in Washington. Their joint findings are a vivid reminder of Google’s growing influence in Washington, DC.
- From the start of his first term until last October, Google officials met in the White House with Obama administration officials once a week on average for a total of 427 visits. More than 180 White House officials attended those meetings. No other public company comes even close to that many White House visits.
- A senior Google lobbyist visited the White House 128 times over that time period. Far more than any other lobbyist from major companies.
- Close to 250 Google employees or government officials have travelled through the Google/Obama administration revolving door. Either from Google to the government or the reverse. There were 55 cases of Google officials coming to work for the federal government and 197 cases documented of government employees going to work for Google.
The massive increase in access to the upper echelons of the federal government has corresponded with the loosening of Google Inc. and its employees’ campaign contributions and lobbying purse strings. A few years back Google paid virtually no interest in Washington. In 2015, it spent $16.7 million lobbying, according to opensecrets.org, and it gave President Obama more than $800 thousand during his last presidential campaign.
It is still not precisely clear what Google gets in return, but watchdog groups claim it is plenty. Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy told the Intercept that “Google has been able to thwart regulatory scrutiny in terms of anti-competitive practices, and has played a key role in ensuring that the United States doesn’t protect at all the privacy of its citizens and its consumers.”