Nestled among the lofty rhetoric of “hope and change,” Barack Obama made a core promise during the 2008 campaign that he would put an end to the corporate cronyism that has long pervaded the political system. “The days of sweetheart deals for Halliburton will be over when I’m in the White House,” he proclaimed. What President Obama left out however, was that the days of sweetheart deals for his cronies had only just begun–with his chief corporate advocate, Google, quickly emerging as the Halliburton of his administration.
Though the Internet giant recently faced serious federal antitrust charges that might have broken up other companies, it emerged virtually unscathed just two months after President Obama won re-election with significant financial and creative assistance from Google and its executives. Unquestionably the president’s most indispensable corporate ally, the terms of Google’s recent antitrust settlement are just the latest example of crony capitalism benefiting the company under the Obama Administration.
An investigation by the FTC found Google to be engaged in activities involving the illegal manipulation of search results to favor its own products, scraping content from other websites without any provision allowing those with objections to opt-out, and imposing restrictions that prevent portability of search advertising campaigns across AdWords and other platforms.
Google is still facing a litany of cases at the state level–Texas, California, Ohio, New York, and Oklahoma–as well as the European Union. Yet Google walked away from the federal case with a non-binding “handshake” agreement in which it says it will make minor changes to some of its search functions. Moreover, there is no way for the FTC or any other agency to enforce the terms of the agreement should Google decide not to comply.