Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

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.

By Cecilia Kang  |  May 19, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Google  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: FTC probes privacy concerns with digital copiers
Next: The Markey Alumni Network

Comments

This is tantamount to insider trading. He is giving Google an edge with this info that competitors do not have.

Nice to see the Obama administation take this unethical behaviour so lightly. Practice what you preach Obama administration!

Posted by: Virginia10 | May 19, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Emails about "White House plans to promote net neutrality rules" is not tantamount to insider trading. Net neutrality is the standard of the internet today. To allow ISP providers to pick and chose which company gets better access and who doesn't, based upon how much they are paid, is what the broadband providers are trying to implement NOW! The internet should not be "filtered" based upon who pays the most. All should be equal in the eyes of cyberspace!

Posted by: Taylorsucram | May 19, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

disgusting. Google is a monopoly. Now with privileged access to the president.

Posted by: beastlet | May 19, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I hope everyone realizes these e-mails weren't in violation of any law, they were against the spirit of a self-imposed ethics standard that Obama instituted for his closest staff. A standard that no prior administration even attempted to meet, let alone pledge itself to (see Cheney's secret oil-executive meetings for a prime example) .

In revolving-door Washington, executive- and legislative-branch employees chit-chatting with their 'erstwhile' corporate colleagues is business as usual. It's good that the Obama administration is at least trying to de-legitimize it.

Posted by: kcx7 | May 19, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Google's about to be broken up by an anti trust law suite. I'm sure this won't help.

Posted by: askgees | May 19, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I hope everyone realizes these e-mails weren't in violation of any law, they were against the spirit of a self-imposed ethics standard that Obama instituted for his closest staff. A standard that no prior administration even attempted to meet, let alone pledge itself to (see Cheney's secret oil-executive meetings for a prime example) .
In revolving-door Washington, executive- and legislative-branch employees chit-chatting with their 'erstwhile' corporate colleagues is business as usual. It's good that the Obama administration is at least trying to de-legitimize it.
Posted by: kcx7 | May 19, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse
I hope everyone realizes that you’re a dope. Obama and the DEMS held just about every meeting regarding healthcare reform behind closed doors. I don’t think you would see the truth if it hit you in the face. Or the fact that just about every bank and Goldman ex-exec. Are on his cabinet and not one has been charged even though it was them that cause the economic disaster facing the US and world today.

Posted by: askgees | May 19, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Response to kcx7:

1) So you are legitimizing his behavior and justifying the administation's lack of discipline based what prior administations did or did not do? No excuse.

2) Giving information to former collegues that is not public knowledge should not be "business as usual" and should be condemned. Just because it's BAU, doesn't justify it. The guy got the lightest punishment possible. Do you think the administration would have repremanded him if it wasn't made public? Wake up man. The "pledge" is nothing but lip service.

Posted by: Virginia10 | May 19, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

No one's reprimanding him for other contact that he had with people about the subject. This seems like a pretty simple mistake to make too. There's nothing wrong with actually upholding a higher standard, while not burning people at the stake for screwing up.

Posted by: Nymous | May 19, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Why should google be treated more poorly than BP, Obamas largest donor?

Posted by: horace1 | May 19, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

I hope everyone realizes these e-mails weren't in violation of any law, they were against the spirit of a self-imposed ethics standard that Obama instituted for his closest staff. A standard that no prior administration even attempted to meet, let alone pledge itself to (see Cheney's secret oil-executive meetings for a prime example) .
===================================
Oh? And what the Obama administration's secret meetings and deals with health industry representatives?
Oh, that's right. That was then, and this is now. Just do as I say, not as I do...

Posted by: mtpeaks | May 19, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company