A consumer group this week formally requested access to e-mails exchanged between White House Internet policy chief Andrew McLaughlin and his former employer, Google.
According to Consumer Watchdog, which filed its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on Thursday, the White House's deputy chief technology officer likely retains a "cozy relationship" with the search giant, where he served until recently as its head of Global Public Policy.
Consumer Watchdog specifically points to recent activity on McLaughlin's Google Buzz page as evidence of a potential, brewing conflict of interest. Screenshots of his social networking account, posted online this week, show Google staffers comprise some of McLaughlin's many subscribers.
It is not clear how much, if at all, McLaughlin communicates with those followers, given that Google Buzz automatically adds recent contacts to one's social network -- a feature that some groups are now taking to the Federal Trade Commission, citing privacy concerns.
Still, Consumer Watchdog alleges his relationship with Google nonetheless violates President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Nation mourns Colin Powell The Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight Powell death leads to bipartisan outpouring of grief MORE's stated committment against appointing known lobbyists to top administration posts.
Consequently, the group asked in its FOIA request for "copies of all electronic mail communications between Office of Science and Technology Policy Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Internet Policy Andrew McLaughlin and officers and employees of Google Inc. and its contracted lobbyists and representatives..."
“The appointment was troubling when it was announced, but signs that McLaughlin is continuing a cozy relationship with his former employer while serving in the top White House Internet policy job are even more disconcerting,” said consumer advocate John M. Simpson, noting his group raised similar questions soon after Obama appointed McLaughlin about one year ago.
“The public has a right to see exactly what sort of messages have been exchanged with his former employer and colleagues,” Simpson added.
However, efforts to reach the OSTP for comment on Saturday were unsuccessful.