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Google has plenty of paths to the White House

By Laurie Bennett

July 27, 2009 at 7:09am

The nation’s top antitrust enforcer is meeting opposition in the White House, reports The New York Times.

One of the targets in Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney’s sights is Google - a company that has many direct and indirect lines of communication to the Obama administration. Varney is reviewing an agreement between Google and book publishers and authors, permitting Google to scan thousands of books and make them available online.

In addition to its lobbying efforts in Washington, which have increased dramatically in recent years, Google has many connections to the top people around President Obama.

Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, who supported Obama’s presidential campaign, is a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Board member John Doerr is on the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Two top administration officials - White House staff secretary Elizabeth Brown and presidential personnel director Donald Gips - are former advisers to Al Gore, who is a senior adviser to Google.

Former Google VP Sheryl Sandberg served as chief of staff to Lawrence Summers, who now chairs the National Economic Council.

There’s no indication, as yet, that any of these individuals have weighed in on the antitrust probe.

Google’s publishing agreement was aimed at settling lawsuits filed in 2005 by the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild. Authors and publishers had claimed that Google violated copyright law by scanning millions of books from university and research libraries, making portions available online.

Many librarians, along with organizations such as the Internet Archive, have criticized the online agreement, saying that it grants Google monopoly rights over millions of “orphan” titles - out-of-print books whose authors and publishers can’t be located.

Google officials have emphasized that they are cooperating with the Justice Department’s investigation.

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