updated 03:25 pm EDT, Fri March 18, 2011
Google's Schmidt may become Commerce Secretary
Numerous rumors have pinpointed Google's soon-to-be-outgoing CEO Eric Schmidt as a candidate for Secretary of Commerce. President Obama is reportedly close to picking the executive and could make the decision public within two weeks. SAI in picking up on discussions didn't name alternative candidates.
He would be available as of April 4, when Larry Page becomes Google CEO and Schmidt under current plans would be Executive Chairman.
Hints of a nomination have been few, but Reagan-era Commerce Department counsel Clyde Prestowitz declared earlier this week in Foreign Policy magazine that Schmidt would be good for the job.
Schmidt coming in would shoot down the prospect of current FCC head Julius Genachowski being moved into the role to get a firmer opinion on net neutrality. The motivations for choosing the Google executive weren't immediately mentioned, but his deep experience with a modern Internet-based economy and awareness of issues such as net neutrality might help him shape policy more effectively.
Controversies could come up with a Schmidt appointment. He may have bowed out from the CEO spot after a disagreement with Page and other Google co-founder Sergey Brin over the principles of staying in China. Brin has objected to China's hacking attempts to track down dissenters and was key to the partial exit, while Schmidt has seen China as too important to Google's bottom line to back out.
Google has usually argued in favor of net neutrality and might get a supporter in the Commerce Secretary spot. However, Google's decision to compromise its values for Verizon and help please its most important Android carrier has raised concerns that Schmidt may ultimately side with business over values when pressed to make a policy decision.
Consumer Watchdog, a public advocacy group, has also likened Schmidt taking the position to a fox running a henhouse, noting that he has often pushed the limits of legal or publicly acceptable privacy. The group has at times been criticized, however, for being obsessed with attacking Google while ignoring Bing, Yahoo, or other search firms.