Last week, when I and others called out the FTC's motives for dropping the suit against Google against the recommendations of the staff, I knew the FTC would release a statement trying to give some context. As I suspected, the FTC released just that statement this week, trying to counter the information they accidentally released to The Wall Street Journal. In fact, the report says,
Contrary to recent press reports, the Commission's decision on the search allegations was in accord with the recommendations of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, Bureau of Economics, and Office of General Counsel.
Some of the FTC's staff attorneys on the search investigation raised concerns about several other Google practices. In response, the Commission obtained commitments from Google regarding certain of those practices. Over the last two years, Google has abided by those commitments.
They claim that the 160 pages of documentation recommending the suit from the staff to the commission was only a small part of the evidence. They also go on to impugn the integrity of The Wall Street Journal itself, claiming that a recent article that points out the increased number of White House visits by Google staffers during the investigation was misleading. They take offense to the title, Google Makes Most of Close Ties to White House, suggesting that the article never actually produces evidence to tie the meetings to influence.
What they did provide was a comparison to other companies with powerful ties to Washington, and some with major business before the government, and their number of visits versus Google's. For example, Comcast, who is trying to complete a merger that was rocky to begin with, has visited the White House a total of 20 times since Obama took office, while Johanna Shelton, a single lobbyist for Google, has had a personal 60 visits. While correlation is not causation, it is certainly an interesting statistic.
Did Google wield undue influence over the FTC, with the help of their good friends in the White House? It is a question that we will likely never know the answer to without the help of someone who was there, but this accidentally released document, and simple statistics certainly paints a picture of the story.