OPINION: What Google could gain from an Obama White House

Barack Obama is building some powerful Silicon Valley support for the home stretch of his presidential campaign. Google CEO Eric Schmidt says he’s officially endorsing Obama and will join him at rallies and events over the coming days. Schmidt had previously served as an informal adviser to the Democratic campaign.

While Schmidt has made it abundantly clear his support is personal and not on behalf of Google, the exec’s position is undoubtedly the driving force of his influence — and his search engine colleagues seem to be okay with it, if their donations serve as any sign. Google workers have given a total of US$487,355 to Obama’s campaign, the Wall Street Journal reports, and only $20,600 to John McCain’s.

Tech Talk

Obama has long been touted as the more tech-oriented of the two candidates. His campaign has created everything from an iPhone app to a text-centric communication system for supporters, while McCain has made headlines for his general lack of computing know-how. Still, when it comes to actual technology-related legislation, both senators have taken their share of stands. So what would Google stand to gain from an Obama election?

— A Possible Position

There have already been calls for Schmidt to take the chief technology officer job Obama has said he’d create within his cabinet. Many have speculated that it may not be a long-shot at all. Schmidt himself, when asked about the possibility, has only indicated he’s “very busy running Google.”

— An Important Ally

Google has a lot on the line in D.C. right now. Lawmakers are looking at privacy policies that could restrict its advertising business, and its proposed joint venture with Yahoo has raised more than a few eyebrows. While Schmidt has said those decisions remain in the hands of the Justice Department, there’s no doubt having a president on its side could only help Google’s interests.

— A Fellow Restriction Fighter

Obama and Google have both supported the idea of limiting Internet service providers’ rate hierarchies and clamping down on ISPs’ abilities to restrict content. Obama has been a long-time backer of so-called “net neutrality” laws that would prevent ISPs from filtering or controlling content, while McCain has sided more with leaving those decisions in the hands of the communications companies. Google, not surprisingly, is overwhelmingly for net neutrality policies. Principles and philosophies aside, having more people with unrestricted, high-speed access would have a clear benefit to Google’s business.

Of course, only Schmidt knows how much of his endorsement is directly related to those issues and how much is a strictly personal passion. Wherever the line lies, though, it’s hard to imagine Google taking great issue with his support, and it’s not the only company in that position. Other Silicon Valley CEOs are expected to follow suit with announced endorsements soon, the Journal reports — and we suspect Obama’s campaign isn’t complaining.

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