Has Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) incurred the wrath of Google?
On Monday, Lee announced that he would like to know more about Google’s meetings with the White House while they were under a Federal Trade Commission investigation for anti-trust violations. Lee, chairman of the Senate’s antitrust panel, suspects that Google and the White House may have improperly meddled with the FTC’s decision.
But, as the Wall Street Journal quickly pointed out, the timing of this announcement was a bit awkward—as Lee was scheduled for a Google-sponsored fundraising event on Tuesday, where he would be soliciting campaign cash from Google employees.
Now Google has decided to skip the event, deeming it inappropriate.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the senator’s campaign reached out to Google Tuesday, and they elected not to attend the event,” Lee’s office said.
Lee’s concerns over Google arose after the Journal reported on the company’s frequent visits to the White House, averaging one meeting a week. One Google lobbyist alone has had over 60 meetings in the White House, compared to Comcast lobbyists, who have had just 20 over the course of Obama’s terms. And during the FTC antitrust investigation, they reportedly held “a flurry of meetings” with both White House and FTC officials.
The Journal also discovered an internal FTC report showing that some in the agency wanted to sue Google for antitrust violations, although they ultimately ended their investigation after Google made several voluntary changes. The report was accidentally given to the paper in a FOIA request.
The FTC has criticized the Journal’s reporting as “misleading,” while Google said their White House meetings at the time in question “were not to discuss the antitrust investigation.”
Google responded to the reports point by point in a blog post titled “Really, Rupert?” (as in Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Wall Street Journal,) completely with gifs.