Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s foundation poured money into the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy over the past year, according to a report from Politico. The foundation’s close ties with the office raised ethics concerns with internal watchdogs.
Schmidt held a number of roles at Google and parent company Alphabet, including CEO, executive chairman, and technical advisor. He stepped down from that last role in 2020. Now, he sits on the boards and invests in tech companies, including a number focused on artificial intelligence. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) directs science funding and helps steer AI policy — one of the reasons Rachel Wallace, then the office’s general counsel, raised concerns about his financial involvement, according to emails obtained by Politico.
Schmidt’s foundation, Schmidt Futures, paid salaries for OSTP employees, Politico reported. An unpaid consultant in the office was also employed by Schmidt Futures. A number of employees were offered Schmidt Futures fellowships, which fund travel to conferences. Some withdrew in response to ethical concerns. Some officials at the office also worked at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, where Schmidt is the chair of the board.
He’s also worked closely with Eric Lander, former director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Lander resigned in February after reports and “credible evidence” that he bullied employees, including Wallace.
An OSTP spokesperson who Politico did not name said that the OSTP works with many outside groups and that the legal office reviews any potential ethical conflicts.
Wallace, who headed the OSTP’s legal office as general counsel, told Politico she attributes Lander’s behavior to her concerns around Schmidt’s involvement. “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,” Wallace told Politico.