Obama’s Rumored Tech Pick Panned

Wed, Jun 3, 2009 at 10:49 am

    A pair of watchdogs on Wednesday urged the White House not halt the pending appointment of Google’s top global public policy executive to the position of deputy chief technology officer under CTO Aneesh Chopra, saying it would violate the intent of President Obama’s ethics rules. Although the choice of Google’s Andrew McLaughlin for the position has been widely reported, it has yet to be announced. Consumer Watchdog’s John Simpson and the Center for Digital Democracy’s Jeff Chester, both vocal critics of the Internet giant, wrote that Google’s Washington influence is not the primary reason for the objection. "We believe no special-interest connected person should assume a position of vital importance to the country’s future," they wrote, noting it would be just as inappropriate for a Microsoft or Yahoo lobbyist to take the job.

    "Appointing someone from a [sic] lobbying shop to this position sends the wrong message – that the well-connected can still make a quick trip to the White House through a special interest revolving door," they said in the letter. "The goal of the Obama administration to use new technology to improve how the government works requires someone whose background ensures they can make independent decisions that will benefit all Americans." The pair note that McLaughlin is "very good at what he does — lobbying around the world for Google’s interests" but that’s not what the deputy CTO gig requires. "It should not go to any person whose most recent position has been advocating policy for a technology company," they said.

    Before joining Google, McLaughlin worked at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, where his studies focused on the law and regulation of Internet and telecommunications networks. He also helped to launch and manage the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, serving as vice president, chief policy officer, and chief financial officer. In the late 1990s, he served as counsel to Rep. Henry Waxman, now chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. A Google spokesman would not comment on the letter but confirmed McLaughlin is departing. Rachel Whetstone, who has led Google’s communications and public affairs efforts, will take his job (Hat tip, Winter Casey).

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