Google’s top brass have gotten accustomed to the perks that come with being in the president’s inner circle--the sweetheart deals, the White House job opportunities, the ability to influence regulatory policy, and the access to the most powerful office in the world. So it’s no surprise that as the Obama years begin to wane, the Google leadership is already scheming to maneuver its way into the good graces of his anointed successor, Hillary Clinton.
Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman and Obama’s “tech BFF,” has seeded a Democratic “big data” firm, Civis Analytics, which is jostling for position with several other new and old liberal tech firms for influence over Clinton’s 2016 data operations. The millions of dollars that would come with a contract from Clinton or Ready For Hillary (the SuperPAC led by Clinton insiders that is laying the foundation for the former Secretary of State’s eventual campaign) aren’t the only thing at stake. Schmidt’s--and by extension, Google’s--continued standing as the White House’s preferred corporate ally is the greater goal.
Civis is an offshoot of the work Schmidt did for Obama in 2012, assisting the president’s unprecedented micro-targeting of voters through big data by providing him with voter outreach technology specifically designed for the campaign. Since spinning off from the Obama campaign, Schmidt’s team at Civis has remained very active, helping to elect cap-and-trade author Ed Markey to the U.S. Senate and assisting left-wing nonprofits in organizing and advocating for the White House’s political priorities.
The sheer volume of forward-thinking technology firms competing with Schmidt and Civis for data supremacy in the Democratic Party should concern conservatives. Stalwarts of 2008 and 2012 like Catalist and NGP-VAN are racing with startups like BlueLabs to win the business of Ready For Hillary, and Democrats stand to reap the benefits of this competition. While conservatives are still looking back at 2012, the other side is looking to 2016 and beyond--and it’s past time for us to do the same.
Most dangerous, however, is the threat that Google’s coziness with the White House poses to the American system of free enterprise. Corporate cronyism knows no party and hurts businesses and consumers alike. While other businesses compete with each other on a level playing field, Google has been able to parlay its relationship with Obama into a bevy of unmerited advantages, including a highly favorable settlement to a federal antitrust case brought by the FTC, and smaller perks like discounts on jet fuel for its executive fleet. Google doesn’t want to give up this “special relationship” when Obama leaves the White House in 2016--and by proclaiming themselves “Ready For Hillary,” its executives hope that their unmerited good times can continue to roll into the next administration.