In a town where proximity to power is a measure of clout, Google's ties with the Obama administration in Washington, D.C., are unrivaled among its tech and telecom peers. At least in sheer quantity.
Google's head of public policy has met with White House officials 128 times over the course of the Obama administration* — more visits than the telecom and cable industry combined, according to the nonpartisan watchdog group Campaign for Accountability.
Johanna Shelton visited with White House representatives nearly twice as often as the next most frequent visitor, Alissa Fox of Blue Cross/Blue Shield, who met with White House officials 75 times, the group found.
The information was released as part of the watchdog group's Google Transparency Project, which is intended to shed light on how the giant corporation influences government officials and public policy. The Campaign for Accountability says its has spent a year collecting and interpreting thousands of pages of public records and online documents to create this database. The nonprofit declined to share its funding source.
Earlier this week, The Intercept published a report with prior figures on Google's proximity to the White House, but it did not include the chart above.
Google declined to comment, but the company did point us to an official blog post from a year ago addressing similar critiques from News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch. The post, a punchy number written by former policy chief Rachel Whetstone, noted that Google's visits to the White House addressed a wide range of issues, including patent reform, self-driving cars and technical assistance with the Healthcare.gov website.
An administration spokesperson said the White House regularly meets with members of the tech sector. "On a daily basis, the administration engages with a broad range of public and private sector experts to better serve the American people," a rep said.
* U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith is a former Google executive and the longtime spouse of Re/code Executive Editor Kara Swisher, from whom she is now separated.
— By Dawn Chmielewski, Re/code.net. Mark Bergen contributed to this report.
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