It’s 2020. The New England Patriots, winners of six straight Super Bowls, are having yet another routine meeting with the Commissioner’s Office.
Deputy NFL Commissioner Tom Brady and his chief of staff, Rob Gronkowski, OK a rule change that forgives the Patriots for illegally taping other teams and deflating football over the preceding years. Meanwhile, members of the Patriots continue to happily contribute funding for the commissioner’s new 45-room castle in Turks and Caicos, and Bill Belichick agrees to continue coaching the commissioner’s 12-year-old son in Pop Warner football.
Would that bother anyone? Because the above is pretty much going on today, only the team is called Google and the commissioner is the president of the United States.
Sure, since we’re talking about politics, the giving and taking of favors works in a slightly more indirect way. But only slightly. As Michael Kinsley used to say, the scandal about corruption in Washington is not the stuff that’s illegal but the stuff that’s legal.
A former Google officer is the president’s chief technology adviser. Google employees contributed more to President Obama’s re-election than did employees of any other company except Microsoft. Google lobbyists met with Obama White House officials 230 times. By comparison, lobbyists from rival Comcast have been admitted to the inner sanctum a mere 20 or so times in the same period.
Oh, and on Election Night 2012, guess where Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt was? Working for the president. In the president’s campaign office. On a voter-turnout system designed to help the president get re-elected.
Obama lieutenant David Plouffe boasts: “On Election Night [Schmidt] was in our boiler room in Chicago,” he told Bloomberg News, in a story that revealed that for the campaign Schmidt “helped recruit talent, choose technology and coach the campaign manager, Jim Messina, on the finer points of leading a large organization.”