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?