Need a government hire? Just Google it.
The Obama administration recently has plundered the search giant’s ranks as it looks to augment Washington’s lagging digital expertise and wade through tech policy debates over privacy and patent laws. The latest hire came last week, when President Barack Obama officially selected Megan Smith, a top vice president at Google, to become the country’s next chief technology officer. She replaces Todd Park, who relinquished the position last month to take on a new role as the administration’s leading emissary in Silicon Valley.
The revolving door hardly is a new phenomenon, and other companies have jostled just as ferociously for influence with the tech-savvy Obama White House. But there’s no denying the door is swinging favorably toward Google these days — a major perk for a company that has boosted its Washington presence and often finds itself in the political spotlight.
Smith should find familiar company in D.C. The Obama administration this year turned to another Google staffer, Mikey Dickerson, to oversee the resurrection of HealthCare.gov. He since has been tasked to help recruit more tech experts to government, running the newly formed U.S. Digital Service. The acting director of the country’s patent office — Michelle Lee — also spent years leading patent work for Google.
And those top aides and advisers mark only the latest examples of Google employees finding work in Washington. Andrew McLaughlin, who helped start Google’s D.C. team, served a tour of duty in the Office of Science and Technology Policy during Obama’s first term. Many years later, Nicole Wong, a well-known Google lawyer, would briefly follow in his footsteps.
Wong, as deputy chief technology officer, led the Obama administration’s exploration of Big Data and privacy issues before departing in August. Her replacement — Alex Macgillivray, whose hiring also was announced last week — most recently served as general counsel for Twitter. Years ago, though, Macgillivray worked for Google, too.
Smith’s departure amounts to a loss for Google — but potentially a gain for Washington. She most recently served as a vice president with Google[x], the company’s top-secret research lab, and her lengthy résumé includes significant work to improve employee diversity. Smith’s decision to enter government service drew widespread praise this week from former colleagues and D.C. tech insiders alike.
“Megan is a serious and creative technologist with a storied career in Silicon Valley,” said Alan Davidson, director of the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation. The former, top Google D.C. staffer added, “Her track record speaks for itself in the tech community, and she would be a huge ‘get’ for any administration.”
Google forged an early, deep connection with the Obama administration. Obama’s unexpected talk about tech issues like net neutrality — even when he was an Illinois senator — resonated throughout Silicon Valley, but particularly at the search giant. Company employees contributed roughly $800,000 to Obama’s 2008 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And they chipped in another $800,000 four years later, the records show.
Early on, “Obama visited Google’s headquarters,” recalled Gary Shapiro, leader of the Consumer Electronics Association, and he’s since done Google Hangouts and met company leaders. At the White House, Shapiro said there’s “deep relationship and support” — not just for Google but for the entirety of the tech community.
“To the extent people from business go to Washington, and become government leaders — I don’t care what their party is, it’s terrific,” said Shapiro, who backed Mitt Romney in 2012.
Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, long has donated big sums to Democrats and supported Obama’s reelection. He even assisted the party with its high-tech voter targeting and outreach efforts. Schmidt assumed a major role advising the White House as a member of the president’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in 2009, a position he still holds. And the Google executive joined other major CEOs at a dinner with Obama in 2011.
Obama has maintained relationships with other major tech companies and executives. His 2011 dinner in California, for example, featured the likes of since-deceased Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Cisco Chief John Chambers. The president more recently joined Marissa Mayer, a Google veteran who now runs Yahoo, for a high-dollar fundraiser for Democrats earlier this year.
Obama in 2008 and 2012 actually collected more campaign cash from employees at Microsoft than from those at Google, and the president personally knew former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. A top Microsoft executive, Kurt DelBene, initially took a major role this year in reviving HealthCare.gov.
Google, of course, has plucked plenty of talent — and influence — from Washington, too.
As the Federal Trade Commission set its sights on the search giant in 2011, fearing the company had come to use its patent portfolio as a weapon against competitors, Google coyly snatched up one of the agency’s top patent attorneys, Suzanne Michel. Google grabbed Jared Cohen from the State Department that year as well. And the company hired Regina Dugan, former chief of the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency research squad, to focus on similar work in 2012. Each addition still remains with the company.
Η άνοδος της Google στην εξουσία
Need a government hire? Just Google it.