White House reprimands deputy CTO for e-mails with former Google colleagues
The nation's deputy chief technology officer, Andrew McLaughlin, was reprimanded by the White House for improperly corresponding with former Google colleagues.
McLaughlin, the former head of global policy for Google, joined the Obama administration as a technology adviser and deputy to national chief technology officer, Aneesh Chopra. His appointment has raised questions by competitors and a consumer group about Google's influence in Washington and in the administration.
A Freedom of Information Act request by the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog yielded dozens of pages of e-mail involving McLaughlin's personal Gmail account and messages from Google employees. Most of the e-mails were on topics related to technology policy and in many cases McLaughlin did not respond to message sent to him. Some email were from Google Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf -- who is an adviser to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a government agency. Those e-mails are not a violation of ethnics of communications policy because of Cerf's role at NIST.
But two e-mails between McLaughlin and Alan Davidson, director of public policy at Google, broke White House rules. And according to the White House, McLaughlin was reprimanded for those lapses.
"These communications were incidental and had no influence on policy decisions within the Federal government. But they did violate the President’s Ethics Pledge, which prohibits Andrew from having any contact with his former employer regarding matters within the scope of his duties at OSTP—except under certain limited circumstances not present in this case," Rick Weiss, spokesman for the Office of Science and Technology Policy wrote in an e-mail.
Weiss said the White House office "counseled him on his ethics obligations." McLaughlin was forced to do an in-depth review of the pledge and federal ethics laws.
The e-mails in question between McLaughlin and Davidson contained discussions about White House plans to promote net neutrality rules that would prevent broadband service providers from slowing, blocking or prioritizing Web traffic.
“There is nothing in these communications that is not reflected in our public comments,
public positions or official communications at the White House," said Mistique Cano, a spokeswoman for Google.
Consumer Watchdog's John Simpson said in a release: "McLaughlin received a mild slap on the wrist." Simpson has called for McLaughlin's resignation, saying a technology expert, not a policy expert, should be in the position.
Former Googlers who are now working in the administration: Sonal Shah heads the White House Domestic Policy Council’s Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation; and Kate Stanton, who is now at the State Department, worked at the White House.
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