White House Reprimands ex-Googler After Consumer Watchdog FOIA Request
The group said Andrew McLaughlin should resign his position in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for using a private e-mail account to conduct government business and discussing policy with former Google associates.
"We opposed the appointment of a lobbyist to this position from the beginning," said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate with the nonpartisan, nonprofit group. "This episode demonstrates that he should resign."
In a memo to all OSTP staff, "Reminder: Compliance with Federal Records Act and the President's Ethics Pledge," director John Holdren describes how "one of our employees fell short" of meeting White House legal and ethical standards. He said the employee -though he did not name in him in the memo - "has been reprimanded on these issues and received additional individual training on his obligations."
Consumer Watchdog's request led to the discovery that McLaughlin had been conducting official business on a personal e-mail account. One violation of the ethics policy was an e-mail exchange withy Alan Davidson, Google's director of Public Policy and Government Affairs in Washington, about comments McLaughlin made regarding Internet neutrality. Davidson sent a message with a link to a news article that said, "Incoming" and added that "we've tee'd it up for the OIC gang, so some of those folks will have your back covered." OIC refers to the Open Internet Coalition of which Google is a leading member. McLaughlin responded:
"I suspect bloomberg and wpost (cecilia's blog) will do something. Key point is that mclaughlin didn't say anything about telcos, so att reaction is puzzling (protesting too much). And that obama has always expressed a free speech rationale for net neutrality, so there is nothing new here.
"WH seems willing to push back hard, which is helpful."
Read the released e-mails here. There are three PDF files:
Consumer Watchdog did not object to Mr. McLaughlin's appointment simply because he was associated with Google. In a joint letter with the Center for Digital Democracy to President Obama at the time of the appointment, the groups wrote: "The problem is that he has been a lobbyist for the biggest digital marketing company in the world, and we believe no special-interest connected person should assume a position of vital importance to the country's future. It would be just as inappropriate for a lobbyist from Microsoft, Yahoo! or any similar technology company to be appointed Deputy Chief Technology Officer."
As Google's director of Global Public Policy, McLaughlin led a team of corporate policy advocates working to influence a wide range of issues in the United States and globally. Simply put, he was responsible for Google's worldwide lobbying efforts. McLaughlin was a registered lobbyist in 2007 working on Google's behalf. The statement of organization for Google's political action committee, Google Inc. NetPAC, filed on March 16, 2009, lists him as the committee's assistant treasurer and its designated agent.