Watchdog wants probe of Google's 'unusually close' ties to Obama
By Sara Jerome - 11/09/10 04:24 PM ET
As House Republicans plan an ambitious oversight agenda for the next session of Congress, a watchdog group is calling for a probe into a company that it says is far too cozy with the Obama administration: Google.
The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a group that advocates for a smaller and more ethical government, wrote to leaders of the House Oversight Committee this month urging them to investigate a major privacy breach by Google. It wants to know if the company's ties to the administration helped it dodge penalties after the incident.
The group also urges a look at Google's ties to the administration more generally, pointing to what it calls "a growing body of evidence" that shows the administration's "unusually close relationship with Google has resulted in favoritism towards the company on federal policy issues."
"Like Halliburton in the previous administration, Google has an exceptionally close relationship with the current administration," the letter says.
The NLPC letter encourages House Oversight Chairman Edolphus Towns (N.Y) and ranking member Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.) to pick up where it believes federal regulators fell short in investigating Google's Wi-Fi privacy breach.
After Google admitted last month that it collected and stored private user information, including passwords and entire e-mails, from Wi-Fi networks, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) closed an inquiry into the issue, citing promises from the company that it would improve its privacy practices.
But NLPC alleges that Google's political clout might be the real reason the FTC dropped the probe.
"There is another deeply disturbing aspect to the FTC’s decision," Kenneth Boehm, the NLPC chairman, writes in the letter to Capitol Hill. "Less than a week before Google’s announcement, President Obama went to the home of Google executive Marissa Mayer for a $30,000-per-person Democratic Party fundraiser."