William Alden writing in Buzzfeed reports yet more evidence of agency capture by Google of the Federal Trade Commission–it’s indirect, but it’s not fooling anyone:
Google’s allies in Washington have used plenty of subtle techniques to help the search giant advance its agenda.
Now, one high-ranking official has employed the art of the subtweet.
Joshua Wright, a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, posted three tweets on Tuesday night that appear to refer to Google — the subject of a recent antitrust inquiry by the FTC that did not result in any charges — without mentioning the company by name.
Commissioner Wright’s tweets indirectly defended Google against the results of a damning study by Professor Tim Wu and others that demonstrate consumer harm by Google favoring its own products over those of competitors in search results. (“Is Google Degrading Search? Consumer Harm from Universal Search.”) See Andrew Orlowski’s reporting on the study.
Wu’s study is a huge threat to Google as it supports the European Commission’s long running prosecution of Google for massive antitrust violations. The EC has stopped playing footsie with Google over these serious charges and is aggressively pursuing their case. So what could be more helpful than a little moral support from an FTC commissioner? If it weren’t for the obvious agency capture of the FTC by Google, that is.
The concept of “agency capture” or “the capture theory of regulation” defines a government regulatory agency tasked with monitoring compliance by a sector of the economy with laws and regulations promulgated by the agency that has come under the effective control of the sector it is intended to regulate. Agency capture is a form of political corruption. It is usually implied and limited to one or a few dominant firms in the regulated space that are able to buy political influence.
It sometimes is a direct outcome of revolving door jobs where a government official recently left a job at one of the dominant firms in the regulated space, a think tank or academic setting that is also dominated or funded by the firm. And you guessed it–the one contemporary firm that is most successful at capturing multiple agencies is Google.
This is, of course, why we were happy to hear that Senator Mike Lee was investigating Google’s ties to the Federal Trade Commission–an investigation that seems to have trailed off. As this things often do, don’t you know.
The most recent example of Google’s success at agency capture is a series of tweets by one Joshua Wright, former Google-funded academic and current Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission. In fact, the potential for agency capture of the Federal Trade Commission by Google is so present that Commissioner Wright promised the American people as part of his confirmation hearings that if confirmed he would recuse himself from participating in any matters relating to Google for two years.
I’m not making this up–Commissioner Wright’s moral hazard problem is so bad that he had to make this promise in return for being confirmed as an FTC commissioner. Why Google? Mr. Wright was paid by Google as noted by Consumer Watchdog in a press release:
In a letter to Sen. Rockefeller, John M. Simpson, [Consumer Watchdog’s] Privacy Project Director wrote:
“Simply put, Wright has repeatedly advocated against laws and regulations that protect consumers and has argued against strong antitrust enforcement. Worse, he has a record of support for, and financial ties to, Google, whose activities are one of the major ongoing issues confronting the Commission.”
“The next Commissioner should be a truly disinterested party who would consider only facts gathered by the FTC staff when making a decision,” the letter continued. “Wright is not such an individual; he is widely on record as opposing antitrust action against Google and has been funded by organizations that receive money from the company”….
Wright is the research director and a board member of the International Center for Law and Economics (ICLE), which receives funds from Google, Consumer Watchdog noted. He has authored or co-authored several white papers supporting Google that were funded by ICLE. Wright is a Senior Adjunct Fellow at TechFreedom.org, a self-described “technology policy think tank,” which also receives Google money.
And by the way–Google’s astroturfing doesn’t end there–read “Mission Creepy” by the venerable good government group Public Citizen on a dark and stormy night if you want a thorough road map to Google’s influence-buying largesse.
Commissioner Wright’s tweets tell the story:
Now why would an FTC commissioner be tweeting this way?
Of course, the real question is whether Google has achieved agency capture of the whole U.S. government. Commissioner Wright joins a long list of fellow travelers:
President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and Obama Campaign Volunteer: Eric Schmidt (call sign “Uncle Sugar”)
Google Lobbyist: Katherine Oyama (former Associate Counsel to Vice President Joseph Biden)
Counselor to the Chairman, Federal Communications Commission: Gigi Sohn, formerly CEO of Google Shill Lister Public Knowledge.
Special Assistant to Chairman, Federal Communications Commission: Sagar Doshi (Google Product Specialist)
Chief Digital Officer, Office of Management and Budget and Featured Revolver at OpenSecrets.org‘s Revolving Door Site: Jason Goldman, formerly Product Manager at Google.
Director of Google Ideas (and co-author with Uncle Sugar of The New Digital Age): Jared Cohen (formerly a member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff and as an advisor to Condoleezza Rice and later Hillary Clinton).
Director of United States Patent and Trademark Office: Michelle Lee (formerly Google’s Head of Patents and Patent Strategy)
U.S. Chief Technology Officer: Megan Smith (formerly at Google[x])
Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer: Alexander Macgillivray (formerly Google’s point man on orphan works)
Director of Google Advanced Technology and Projects Group: Regina Dugan (former director of DARPA)
Director of U.S. Digital Service aka savior of Healthcare.gov (in case you couldn’t tell): Mikey Dickerson (former Site Reliability Manager at Google)
YouTube Global Communications and Public Affairs Manager: Chelsea Maugham (former U.S. State Dept. Chief of Staff)
Google Head of Global Development Initiatives: Sonal Shah (Advisory Board Member, Obama-Biden Transition Project)
Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer (White House): Nicole Wong (former Google Vice President & Deputy General Counsel)
And then there are dozens if not hundreds of former Hill staffers now working for Google’s DC shillery.