Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt reportedly funneled money into the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy over the past year, broaching ethical concerns about his influence in the Biden administration, according to Politico.
The Politico report tracks the paths of former and current OSTP employees with extensive ties to Schmidt, a billionaire who ran Google from 2001 to 2011, and then served as executive chairman of its parent company, Alphabet, until 2020.
Citing the report, Schmidt's charity entity, Schmidt Futures, indirectly paid the salaries of two OSTP employees for six weeks — including Marc Aidinoff, the OSTP's acting chief of staff since February 2021.
And Tom Kalil, the chief innovation officer at Schmidt Futures, reportedly worked as an unpaid consultant at the OSTP for four months, while remaining on Schmidt's payroll. Kalil eventually left the science office amid ethics complaints.
A Schmidt Futures spokesperson sent a statement that pooled funding has long been used by OSTP.
"The United States Government and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) have used pooled philanthropic funding to ensure proper staffing across agencies for decades," the statement read. "Specifically, the OSTP has a long tradition — authorized by statute in 1976 — of bringing in technical expertise and fellows from a variety of fields including universities and nonprofits to address the rapidly changing science and tech landscape."
In the Politico report, former OSTP general counsel Rachel Wallace voiced numerous concerns over Schmidt's influence with the science office, particularly that of former department head Eric Lander, who recently stepped down after he was accused of bullying women in the workplace.
According to the Daily Mail, OSTP officials maintained part-time work duties at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, a biotech center that was formerly led by Lander and had Schmidt serving on the board. Both employees have subsequently left the OSTP. Two others reportedly had their salaries paid by the Federation of American Scientists, with Schmidt contributing to that fund.
According to internal emails shown to Politico, Schmidt's financial interests overlapped the OSTP's responsibilities, potentially leading to a major conflict of interest.
Also, Politico reported that more than a dozen workers from the White House's 140-person staff are either current or former employees under Schmidt.
Politico said Wallace has filed a whistleblower complaint and is subsequently being represented by the Government Accountability Office.
Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the People's Trust, a government ethics group, said the following about Schmidt's OSTP ties, when interviewed by the Daily Mail.
"It's telling that the downfall of the head of OSTP came not from the apparent ethics violations but from allegedly mistreating those who attempted to blow the whistle. The revolving door between government service and powerful private interests is one reason the American public's trust in its government is at an all-time low.
"But it looks as though, rather than reform, OSTP may have made it worse by creating a situation in which they replaced the revolving door with a breezeway, eliminating structural barriers between the two."
The Daily Mail reported that Schmidt has been lobbying the White House on science policies for years, dating back to the Obama administration.
Established in 1976, the OSTP advises the Office of the President on matters pertaining to scientific, engineering and technological aspects of the economy, national security, homeland security, health, foreign relations and the environment.
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