Google executives and lobbyists have met with top Obama administration officials as many as 230 times since President Barack Obama took office in 2009 — including visits as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated the Internet giant for antitrust violations.
The number of visits average out to about once a week, according to a visitor logs and emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The visits include those by Larry Page, Google's co-founder, who met with FTC officials to discuss possibly settling the investigation, and by Chairman Eric Schmidt, who met with Pete Rouse, a top adviser to President Obama at the White House.
Those sessions occurred in late 2012, the Journal reports, though the documents reviewed do not indicate the full nature of those visits. However, the FTC closed its investigation shortly thereafter, when Google said it would voluntarily make changes to its business practices.
In addition, Johanna Shelton, a key Google lobbyist, has met more than 60 times with Obama officials, according to the Journal's review. The company is based in Mountain View, Calif.
"We think it is important to have a strong voice in the debate and help policy makers understand our business and the work we do to keep the Internet open, to build great products, and to fuel economic growth," Niki Christoff, a Google spokeswoman, told the Journal.
As for the FTC, a White House spokeswoman said it "is an independent agency and we respect their independent decision-making.
"White House officials meet with business executives on a range of issues on a regular basis," she told the Journal. "These meetings help keep the White House apprised of outside perspectives on important policy issues.
"Our staff is cognizant that it is inappropriate to discuss issues relating to regulatory enforcement."
Established in 1914, the Federal Trade Commission is an independent agency of the U.S. government. Its mission includes promoting consumer protection and eliminating and preventing anticompetitive business practices.
In August 2012, the FTC’s staff concluded that Google harmed Internet users and rivals through anticompetitive tactics and by abusing its monopoly, the Journal reports.
A lawsuit was recommended, but five months later, in January 2013, the commission voted unanimously to end the investigation, the Journal reports. The five-member governing panel includes three Democrats and two Republicans.
"It is unusual for White House aides to talk with officials at a company or agency about law-enforcement matters involving the company or agency," according to the report. No such meetings occur during high-profile investigations at, for instance, the Justice Department's antitrust division.
Google has been actively involved with the Obama administration in other ways, too, the Journal reports.
For instance, Schmidt oversaw a voter-turnout software system for the Obama campaign the night the president was re-elected in November 2012 — and former Google employees worked on the glitch-prone HealthCare.gov website for Obamacare.
And Megan Smith, a former Google vice president, is the administration's chief technology officer and top Obama adviser.
Google spent $16.8 million on lobbyists last year, far more than any other company, and workers were the No. 2 source of donations to the Obama campaign, trailing only Microsoft, the Journal reports.
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