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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Google denies special deal for Barack Obama

Google denied Wednesday that it gave President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign special access to a new advertising program, something a sales representative from the search and advertising giant had claimed in an email to customers.
The new ad program would charge clients for every email address (or other piece of user data) they collect. The program is attractive to campaigns eager for that information, so when a staffer at the National Republican Senatorial Committee saw what appeared to be an Obama ad built on this technology on the RealClearPolitics website last month, she emailed a Google sales rep to ask about creating a similar ad campaign for Republicans.

The saleswoman, Sirene Abou-Chakra, replied by suggesting that Obama had a special deal.
“This is a pre-alpha product that is being released to a select few clients,” she wrote in an email, referring to the first stage of a product’s roll-out. “I’d be happy to get you into the beta if you’re interested.”
A similar email went out to at least one other Republican digital media firm, a Republican source said.
“It certainly raises some red flags that the Obama campaign appears to have been given special access to a new online advertising product,” said NRSC communications director Brian Walsh in response to an inquiry from POLITICO.
But Google spokesman Jake Parrilo denied strenuously that the Obama campaign had been granted special access to the pilot program, and chalked the email up to inaccurate “puffery” by the sales representative. The ad that appeared on RealClearPolitics, he said, was not a Google ad at all.
“This is an experiment and while we generally do not comment on those experiments we can tell you that we have not sold a single CPL [cost-per-lead] ad unit to any political candidates or committees,” said Parrillo.
And Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt seconded the company’s account that the campaign had not purchased any ads or enrolled in the Google pilot program.
Google, whose chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt was an informal adviser and support of Obama and sits on the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, has been accused in the past of favoring the White House. The Federal Trade Commission dropped an investigation into the company after a major privacy breach, leading some Republican groups to cry for an investigation — even as Google agreed to a tough 20-year FTC settlement on a second privacy breach.
After POLTICO asked Google about the suggestion of a special deal for the campaign, a Google spokesman forwarded a reporter correspondence between the company and the NRSC, charging - inaccurately - that the committee had been the source of POLITICO’s information.
The forward prompted Walsh to add that he is “concerned that Google shared a private email exchange with our committee and their company with the media.”
The pilot program at issue is a new type of digital advertising that Google appears to be preparing to launch in the third quarter of 2011.
“It’s a cost-effective, easy and scalable way to generate leads,” boasted Google in a marketing document about their new product. “Fewer steps for users means they’re more likely to complete your lead form.”
Parrillo told POLITICO that the Republican and the Democratic political ad sales teams at Google are kept separate and are unaware of the other side’s projects or deals.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0611/57084.html#ixzz1PSrVf7sc

FLASHBACK: GOOGLE execs shower Obama's inaugural committee with cash...

Google Execs Pay $150,000 for Obama Bash

It's Google's presidency. We're just watching it. Six Google executives, including CEO Eric Schmidt and cofounder Larry Page, have donated $25,000 apiece to fund President Barack Obama's swearing-in party.
Taken as a whole, the Googlers' cash is one of the largest corporate donations to Obama's inaugural committee. Marissa Mayer, an early Google employee who now oversees its search engine, and David Drummond, the company's top lawyer, also donated, as did YouTube cofounder Chad Hurley and Dick Costolo, the former CEO of FeedBurner, an advertising startup acquired by Google last year,
Unlike election spending, donations to cover the expenses of an inauguration are relatively unlimited. Obama's committee has capped donations at $50,000.
It's a time-honored way to win influence. Michael Dell, CEO of the eponymous computer maker, gave $250,000 for George W. Bush's second inaugural in 2004.
That the Googlers are paying up shows the IPO-borne wealth of the company's top executives; the closeness of their ties to Obama, who has cited Google's management style as an inspiration for the structure of his campaign; and the company's maturation as a political player in Washington, D.C. Eric Schmidt's oddly late endorsement of Obama, weeks before the election, was the culmination of this process. And this injection of inaugural cash is just a down payment.
What do they want in return? One of the last acts of the Bush Administration's antitrust cops was to nix a deal for Google to sell ads on Yahoo's websites. With Google set on expanding its dominance of online search advertising into other fields, is it any surprise that its executives would welcome their new best friend to the White House?

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