In News from the Goolag, the well-known Cypriot and former Googler Eric “Uncle Sugar” Schmidt is back in town.
What Uncle Sugar is probably not quite ready for is that neither the press nor the people are all awow over just how groovy it is to be him–unlike President Obama who wrapped himself in Silicon Valley giving Google unprecedented White House access, associating yourself with the Google/Facebook duopoly is probably not a great look for Joe Biden. Somebody changed the yellow brick road to a third rail.
The American Prospect is doing outstanding work on Joe Biden’s picks to run the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, particularly Renata Hesse. MTP readers will remember her from her last Antitrust Division job when she pulled the 100% licensing stunt that would have been catastrophic for songwriters–so much so that songwriters had no choice but to sue Ms. Hesse in her official capacity to try to get her to stop. The last time around, Ms. Hesse skated into a Senate-confirmable job in the waning days of the Obama under the wire of the Vacancies Act which is a major loophole that allows “acting” executive branch officials to avoid Senate confirmation for 210-300 days depending on when the appointment occurs.
The Prospect speculates that on top of everything else, Hesse would have to recuse herself from the US Government’s current antitrust case against Google. I would pick a bone there–my bet is that Hesse isn’t going to recuse herself from anything. Her job is to get that case dropped. Abracadabra–nothing to recuse because there is no case. Admit it–ten years ago or even five years ago you would have laughed this off. You would have said, there goes Castle with his wild conspiracies. But be honest–you’re not laughing today, are you?
This time it’s different. Being the Person from Google who is here to help is not a good calling card anymore. She can’t really avoid Senate confirmation if she’s announced in the beginning of the Biden Administration.
The other investigation involves Uncle Sugar directly:
Days after winning the November election, Joe Biden announced the names of those staffing his transition. Big Tech landed prominent spots. Among the hundreds of personnel on the agency review teams serving the president-elect, there was one from Uber, two from Amazon, and one from Google. And then there were two people from Rebellion Defense, a shadowy defense startup.
The announcement sent Washington insiders scrambling to look up the company. No major defense contractors appeared on the list. “It’s sure odd that a year-old startup like Rebellion winds up with two employees serving on a presidential transition team,” Ken Glueck, the executive vice president of the tech company Oracle, told me.
What is Rebellion Defense? With a Star Wars allusion as its name, this firm is not your typical contractor. Rebellion launched in the summer of 2019 to craft artificial-intelligence (AI) software for the defense industry. Trade publications gushed about how innovative it was. It quickly raised $63 million, with the conspicuous backing of its board member Eric Schmidt. Schmidt is best known as the former CEO of Google, but he’s also a billionaire investor and an influential consultant to key government bodies….
The Biden administration will need to tread carefully to avoid Big Tech taking over functions of government. Early in Obama’s presidency, Google representatives attended more than one White House meeting a week, leading some to jokingly call the administration Google.gov. More than 250 Google employees moved back and forth between the company and government during the Obama years. Schmidt is now poised to have even more sway within the new White House.