Google-Funded Think Tank Disputes Why It Booted Antitrust Crusader
As a well-nourished gourmand once said: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
New America, a left-leaning think tank that has received millions of dollars in funding from Google and its parent company Alphabet’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt, dismissed a senior fellow, Barry Lynn, who led the organization’s Open Markets program, after his antitrust views reportedly displeased its big donors.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, New America’s president and a former State Department official under Hillary Clinton, informed Lynn in an email over the summer that the organization would “part ways” with his group, the New York Times reported Wednesday. Although Slaughter said the decision was “in no way based on the content of [his] work,” according to the Times, which said it had reviewed a copy of the message, she accused Lynn of “imperiling the institution as a whole.”
The ouster followed a blog post by Lynn that praised the European Commission’s June decision to fine Google (GOOG) $2.7 billion for breaching antitrust rules. Lynn’s post apparently caught the attention of Schmidt, who allegedly complained about it to Slaughter.
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In a statement on New America’s website posted Wednesday, Slaughter disputed this version of the events leading to Lynn’s departure. “Today’s New York Times story alleges that Google lobbied New America to expel the Open Markets program because of this press release,” she wrote. “I want to be clear: this claim is absolutely false.”
Slaughter said that the decision to cut ties with the Open Markets team was the result of Lynn’s “repeated refusal to adhere to New America’s standards of openness and institutional collegiality.” She said this “meant that we could no longer work together as part of the same institution.”
Riva Sciuto, a Google spokesperson, said in a statement provided to Fortune that New America is just one of many public policy groups that Google supports. “We don’t agree with every group 100% of the time, and while we sometimes respectfully disagree, we respect each group’s independence, personnel decisions, and policy perspectives,” she said, noting that Google would continue to fund New America.
Lynn’s expelled team, meanwhile, is in the process of standing up a new independent non-profit group. So far it has set up a website called Citizens Against Monopoly, which promises, “We are going to make sure Google doesn’t get away with this.”