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Eric Schmidt's next gig: Obamaman?

Google boss in line for Secretary of Commerce post

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Google's soon-to-be-ex CEO Eric Schmidt may be joining the Obama administration in a Cabinet-level position, according various reports bouncing around the interwebs.

"The word in Washington is that President Obama is close to naming departing CEO Eric Schmidt as the nation's next Secretary of Commerce," writes Business Insider, citing as supporting evidence a Foreign Policy article in which a prominent member of the Reagan administration commerce department wrote: "I wholeheartedly urge President Obama to move ahead with this appointment."

Such an endorsement from a member of the Republican old guard could be considered a strong signal that a Schmidt nomination might not face the same opposition that Obama faced from the Grand Old Party in response to such nominations as Timothy Geithner at Treasury, Hilda Solis at Labor, and Kathleen Sibelius at Health and Human Services.

Friday's rumor was not the first rumbling that Schmidt had an inside track to the Commerce job. Last Thursday, Bloomberg Businessweek's reported that Schmidt was under consideration for the post along with two others: former Pfizer chairman and CEO Jeffrey Kindler, who resigned from the pharmaceutical giant last December – "unexpectedly", according to The Wall Street Journal – and Ron Kirk, former Dallas, Texas, mayor and current US Trade Representative in Obama's cabinet.

Schmidt and Obama recently dined together in the tony San Francisco suburb of Woodside, along with other titans of tech including Apple's Steve Jobs, Cisco's John Chambers, Oracle's Larry Ellison, and others.

Google, which Schmidt has led for the past 10 years, has seen its share of former employees moving into offices in Obama's executive branch. As The Reg has reported, these worthies include Google's former chief lobbyist Andrew McLaughlin, who became Obama's deputy CTO; ex-Google product manager Katie Jacobs Stanton, who was tapped as "director of citizen participation"; and Sonal Shah, who moved from Mountain View's philanthropic arm, Google.org, into a position with the weighty title of Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council's Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

Schmidt himself – along with Shah – was also a member of Obama's transition team back in the days when "Change We Can Believe In" was the buzzphrase du jour.

If Business Insider's sources are correct, Schmidt's next change may soon be into an office inside the Washington DC beltway. The current Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke, has been nominated by Obama as ambassador to China on March 9, to replace current ambassador Jon Huntsman, who's scheduled to leave that post on April 30th.

Schmidt's last day as Google CEO is April 4. Three and a half weeks to pack? Plenty of time. ®

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