NOT A Surrogate (Lawyer or Otherwise)
This post was written on December 1, but I decided then not to publish it because the accusation that I represent Google was made only in a small, relatively obscure Washington policy conference. Today, however, the New York Times reported that my law firm represents Google, a charge implicitly endorsed by lawyer Gary Reback, who called me Google’s “surrogate.” Round Two: Is Google a Monopoly? | NYT Dealbook.
So for clarity, allow me to reiterate the response I made — angrily, I admit, because I view attacks on one’s integrity as character assassination — a month ago. “I do not represent Google. My law firm does not represent Google. Google is not paying me.” I am not a surrogate for Google or any other company, organization or interest group. My views on net neutrality, for instance — which are very much in conflict with those of my clients Consumers Union and CCIA — demonstrate that when I speak, it’s because I have something to say, not because I am under the control of a client, or as Reback suggests, an undisclosed master.
The earlier post follows:
I attended a conference in early December about online privacy and Google — sponsored by ConsumerWatchdog.org — and was the victim of uncalled-for character assassination. When I dared to ask a critical question probing the validity of speakers’ assumption that Google is an unlawful Internet search monopolist, my question was met with the accusation that I am Google’s lawyer. That is simply not true.
It is a scurrilous allegation, first voiced two years ago by Microsoft, that appears intended to undermined the legitimacy of my views by ascribing them to a paying client. The reality, however, is that a simple review of court records would reveal that although Google was a former client — nearly a decade ago — since 2004 the law firms in which I was and am now a partner have been conflicted from representing Google because of litigation brought against the company. And these are not obscure cases, rather prominent ones challenging Google AdWords’ copyright policies and its age-related related employment practices. I have reiterated since 2008, when the issue was first raised, that I do not represent Google and my views on the Google-Yahoo! deal, the AdMob acquisition and the like are mine and mine alone. (See, for instance, my Oct. 2010 and April 2008 posts.) The descriptions on this site say explicitly that my clients “have over the years proudly comprised a veritable who’s who roster of the IT industry leadership,” including Google. Past tense, folks!
The tendency of Washington insiders to engage in ad hominem attacks on those voicing contrary views is reprehensible. I’ve gone the extra mile in the other direction, for instance pointing out that when Microsoft’s antitrust counsel-of-record filed massive suits against Google for small companies, “I don’t agree with guilt-by-association for lawyers in private practice.” To reiterate, neither Duane Morris LLP nor Glenn Manishin personally represent Google. Google does not pay for me to express my views. My law firms (past and present) do not count Google among their client roster. That I enjoy opining on matters of technology policy — such as net neutrality and “search neutrality” – does not mean that I am a shill for Google, Google’s allies, its partners and “ecosystem” or anyone else.
So Gary Reback, Jeff Chester, John Simpson and others, get your facts straight. If my opinions are blather, rebut them on the merits. But do not attack the messenger because you disagree with his message. Especially when the accusation is clearly and demonstrably untrue.
P.S. In the Times, I said that Reback has a “vendetta” against Google. The Times editorialized that I was “taking a swipe” at Gary and “the claws are out.” But vendetta means a serious, long-running feud. As Reback has been going after Google for at least two years, since at least the Google book settlement, his position and public advocacy clearly qualify as a vendetta.