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Obama urged to halt Google government takeover

Stop the revolving door

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Two consumer watchdogs - including the aptly-named Consumer Watchdog - have urged US President Barack Obama to avoid appointing Google's director of global public policy as the country's deputy chief technology officer.

According to various press reports, Obama is set to fill the new deputy CTO post with über-Googler Andrew McLaughlin, who took hold of the company's public-policy efforts roughly five years ago after a stint at ICANN.

Google has confirmed that McLaughlin has left the company. And Consumer Watchdog has joined the Center for Digital Democracy in firing a letter (PDF) at Obama, asking the leader of the free world to stop the appointment before it happens. With an executive order, Obama moved to destroy the revolving door between the executive branch and corporate lobbyists, and the growling watchdogs argue that a McLaughlin appointment would undermine those efforts.

"Mr. McLaughlin’s appointment, we believe, must be evaluated in the context of the strong ethical rules your administration has implemented to end the revolving door between lobbyists and the executive branch," the letter reads. "Given Mr. McLaughlin’s role over the years at Google, and most recently his position with its political action committee, any post at the White House would violate the intent of your executive order.

"As Google’s Director of Global Public Policy, Mr. 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 has been responsible for Google’s worldwide lobbying efforts."

What's more, the watchdogs point out, that other revolving door - between Google and the executive branch - is already in full swing. Former Google project manager Katie Stanton is now the White House director of citizen participation. Sonal Shah, former head of global development at Google.org, now oversees the White House Office of Social Innovation. And Google CEO Eric Schmidt, after advising the Obama transition team, is now a member of the President’s council of advisors on science and technology.

Laughlin was part of the transition team, and he's now poised to renew his efforts to shove Web 2.0 down the throat of the US government.

Part of the concern here is that as Google completes its reverse takeover of the Obama adminstration, it's facing probes by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. "The Justice Department is weighing antitrust issues relating to the proposed Google Books settlement and the Federal Trade Commission is considering the anti-trust implication of the relationship between Apple and Google directors," the watchdogs write.

"There are an increasing number of emerging issues that will likely pit the commercial interests of Google against the rights of American citizens, including protecting our privacy and consumer rights online." ®

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