Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt reportedly held an “unusual level of influence” over the Office of Science and Technology (OSTP), flying one of Biden’s top science advisors to a posh resort on a private jet, according to a Fox News report.
Besides having ties to more than a dozen employees within the OSTP, Schmidt also enjoyed a close relationship with Eric Lander, the former top science advisor for the Biden administration, Politico reported in 2022. While Lander was still serving in his advisory capacity for the Biden White House, Schmidt reportedly flew Lander and his family to an upscale resort in Montana, further raising ethical questions over the scope of his influence, Fox News reported.
Internal White House emails revealed Lander and his family were flown via private jet to the Yellowstone Weekend Summit in July 2021, a private event hosted by Schmidt. The trip was managed by Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic enterprise founded by the former Google CEO in 2017. Though a spokesman for Lander told Fox News the White House had approved the trip and that Schmidt Futures had been reimbursed for the travel expenses incurred, Protect the Public Trust (PPT) Director Michael Chamberlain deemed the trip inappropriate, Fox News reported.
“Eric Schmidt, the billionaire former Google CEO and longtime Democratic donor, flew President Biden’s former top science adviser Eric Lander to a ritzy retreat in Montana during his tenure at the White House” https://t.co/B5fwt9gOE7
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) June 23, 2023
“Inappropriately taking private or charter flights for travel has been the undoing of more than one high-ranking official in the Executive Branch,” Chamberlain 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.”
Since 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,” Chamberlain argued, the incident only serves to heighten the public’s skepticism of the administration’s motivations as, at the time of the trip, Lander was reportedly crafting Biden administration policies for the OSTP.
In 2022, it was reported Schmidt Futures was indirectly paying the salaries of two OTSP employees, including that of Marc Aidinoff, who served as OSTP Chief of Staff following Lander’s resignation in Feb. 2022 amid allegations of bullying. Additionally, Schmidt launched and sat on the board of Civics Analytics, a data science company which helps Democratic campaigns — including Biden’s 2020 campaign — target voters. (RELATED: Former Google CEO Is Quietly Bankrolling Dozens Of White House Jobs)
Those revelations raised “significant” ethical concerns within the OSTP general counsel office, according to internal emails obtained by Politico, given that Schmidt’s financial interests overlapped with responsibilities that were overseen by the OSTP.
“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,” Rachel Wallace, the OSTP General Counsel, told Politico.
Wallace, a whistleblower who brought the allegations of bullying against Lander, further told Politico she felt Lander treated her poorly because she raised ethical objections to Schmidt’s influence over the OSTP.
The White House has since stated Lander had not been approved to attend the Yellowstone Weekend Summit in his “official capacity,” telling Fox News Lander “was not there on behalf of the federal government, and was advised about his ethics obligations.”