More than a dozen progressive groups published an open letter to President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday, urging him not to appoint people with “close ties to Google,” including the tech giant’s former CEO Eric Schmidt, to senior roles in his administration.
The 14 progressive groups — including The Revolving Door Project, a group which scrutinizes the appointments of executives in office — urged Biden to take a “hard line against the influence of individuals with close ties to Google.”
The groups wrote that they “want to ensure that the internet isn’t dominated by a handful of corporations and remains free and open.”
The Financial Times reported November 8 that Schmidt was being discussed as a possible lead for a new technology industry task force in the White House, without describing its sources.
Biden has not publicly discussed a role for Schmidt, and Silicon Valley sources close to the Biden team told Recode Tuesday they weren’t aware of any plans to appoint Schmidt. One source familiar with the matter also said the Biden transition team had not discussed a planned role for Schmidt.
A spokesperson for Schmidt declined to comment to Business Insider.
The letter, also signed by the Open Markets Institute, the Communications Workers of America, the Action Center on Race & the Economy, and others, said an appointment for Schmidt would alienate “an overwhelming majority of the electorate … who want to see the economic power of major corporations reined in.”
“In reviewing your transition’s disclosure of its agency review teams, we were struck and concerned by the apparent widespread influence of people with close professional ties to Google generally and more specifically Eric Schmidt, a former CEO of Google with a current multi-billion dollar stake in the company,” the groups said.
The groups referenced the antitrust lawsuit filed against Google by the Department of Justice on October 20. The case argues that Google disadvantaged competitors through a network of exclusionary business deals, and is the tech giant’s largest legal challenge yet.
Having Schmidt in a senior US government position “could have a chilling effect on US antimonopoly policy moving forward,” they said.
The letter said appointing Schmidt would risk “fracturing a Democratic coalition” and “alienating an overwhelming majority of the electorate.”
The groups also pointed to the news that Schmidt was reportedly obtaining citizenship in the European island, Cyprus, per Recode, allowing him to travel to the European Union and possibly reap tax benefits. Schmidt declined to comment to Recode at the time.
In light of this news, appointing Schmidt would send a “dangerous message” during a time of “historic wealth inequality,” the groups said.
Schmidt has a net worth of about $15 billion and is one of the wealthiest people on the planet.
The groups also referenced a survey by the organization Demand Progress, in which more than half of people agreed Biden should refuse to appoint any individuals with ties to Big Tech companies that are being sued by the Department of Justice.
“The American people are divided on many things, but not on what they view as fundamental issues of legal and economic justice like this one,” they said.