A Fox News report has uncovered the “unusual level of influence” that former Google CEO Eric Schmidt held over President Joe Biden’s Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) — revealing that he was even giving one of Biden’s top science advisors flights to a luxury resort on a private jet.
Politico previously detailed Schmidt’s ties with more than a dozen OSTP employees in a 2022 report, especially his close relationship with Eric Lander, a former top science advisor in the Biden administration.
— Michael McLane (@MFMcLane) March 28, 2022
However, the latest Fox News report shows just how close that relationship was — revealing that Schmidt allegedly flew Lander and his family to a high-class resort in Montana while he was still serving in the Biden administration, which has raised serious concerns about the scope of the former Google CEO’s influence.
According to internal White House emails, the then-White House science advisor and his family flew on a private jet to the Yellowstone Weekend Summit in July 2021 — which was a private event hosted by the former Google CEO. However, the flight and Lander’s family’s attendance at the event were not funded directly by Schmidt, and instead were managed by his philanthropic enterprise Schmidt Futures.
In a statement to Fox News, a spokesperson for Lander claimed that the White House had approved the trip and had reimbursed Schmidt Futures for all travel expenses. According to the White House, Lander was not approved to attend the event in his “official capacity,” and “was not there on behalf of the federal government, and was advised about his ethics obligations.”
However, according to Protect the Public Trust (PPT) Director Michael Chamberlain, the trip was still inappropriate.
“Inappropriately taking private or charter flights for travel has been the undoing of more than one high-ranking official in the Executive Branch,” he told the outlet. “The personnel and resources that have flowed into OSTP from a handful of wealthy, powerful individuals and organizations should give the American public pause to consider whether the factors driving that generosity may not be altogether altruistic.”
Chamberlain went on to note that the Biden administration has made a “very public commitment to putting science above politics and has talked a lot about adherence to its scientific integrity policies,” and thus Lander’s trip prompts concern about the administration’s motivations — especially as Lander was in the process of crafting Biden administration policies for the OSTP at the time.
In a previous report on the possible conflicts of interest in 2022, it was revealed that Schmidt Futures was indirectly paying the salaries of two different OSTP employees. One of those employees was OSTP chief of staff Marc Aidinoff, who took over after Lander resigned in February 2022 in response to allegations of bullying.
Schmidt also has entered the political arena in the past, launching Civics Analytics — a data science company that helps Democrat campaigns, including Biden’s 2020 campaign, target voters. The former Google CEO also put himself on the board of that company.
Amid all of these revelations about Schmidt’s connections to the Biden administration, the OSTP general counsel’s office expressed “significant” ethical concerns about the behavior — especially because Schmidt’s financial interests directly overlapped with matters that were overseen by the OSTP.
OSTP General Counsel Rachel Wallace, a whistleblower who brought forward the allegations of bullying against Lander, spoke to Politico about the matter.
“I and others on the legal team had been noticing a large number of staff with financial connections to Schmidt Futures and were increasingly concerned about the influence this organization was able to have through these individuals,” she told the outlet.
Wallace also told Politico that she believed Lander had treated her badly because she had raised ethical concerns about Schmidt’s influence over the agency.