There's so much actual wrongdoing and wrong-headedness in Washington D.C. that it seems like a waste of time to make up fake stories. But exactly that's what one Virginia-based "public policy group" is doing. First, some background.
Back in May, I wrote about how Obama administration Deputy CTO Andrew McLaughlin might be mixing his Google past with his government service, possibly violating his ethics obligations.
His Google Buzz account was exposed to the public and there was some evidence that even though he no longer worked for Google, he was in regular contact with his old Google buddies.
We haven't heard too much about McLaughlin since May, but apparently the National Legal and Policy Center has decided to target him with a smear campaign.
Let me be clear that I have a bias when it comes to these guys. In September, I wrote an article debunking paranoid blogosphere delusions that the White House's compliance with the Presidential Records Act was a plan to spy on all Americans.
National Legal and Policy Center
Even though I'd never heard of the fun folks at the National Legal and Policy Center until after I wrote the article, they decided I'd written it about them, and then proceeded to flame me on their site. I offered to discuss the issue with them but I never heard back, and so I assume they were happier complaining than engaging in open dialog.
Now these guys are back and making up accusations about McLaughlin out of thin air. On Friday, they issued a press release entitled White House Emails Show More Extensive Improper Contact With Google where they dig into Deputy CTO McLaughlin.
Making stuff up to get press
There is always the possibility that McLaughlin might actually be guilty of wrongdoing. The only problem is, the emails these guys are citing don't actually show any direct contact with Google.
Instead, the email threads cited show a discussion between McLaughlin and an attorney named Markham Erickson. In these messages, the bulk of the interaction is about whether or not McLaughlin and Erickson are going to meet for coffee. Erickson, it turns out, is interested in net neutrality, as it McLaughlin.
While Google is one of Holch & Erickson LLP's clients, so is Amazon, eBay, Skype, and Yahoo, along with the Open Internet Coalition. Having coffee isn't a crime and neither is meeting with one of the law firms exploring net neutrality but the National Legal and Policy Center is practically foaming at the mouth because McLaughlin might be sharing lattes with an attorney who counts most of America's big Internet companies as clients.
Next in the trumped up email trail is a complaint that McLaughlin's been talking to one Ben Scott who used to work for a nonprofit called FreePress.net and now works for the U.S. State Department. Apparently, Scott's crime is that he "attended joint meetings with Google at the FCC and White House" and was now making plans to meet McLaughlin for coffee.
Yep, Scott's crime was he attended a meeting that Google also attended. By extension, according to the National Legal and Policy Center, because McLaughlin wanted to have coffee with someone who once attended a meeting with Google and now works for the State Department, McLaughlin's a baaaaad man.
Further wasting everyone's time, the guys at the National Legal and Policy Center decided to involve everyone's favorite under-informed Congress-critter, Representative Darrell Issa. Issa's made something of a name for himself by taking on technical topics, making various accusations using words he's apparently heard, but knows nothing about.
I once caught him making claims in congressional hearings about IBM that were totally false. He publicly stated he wouldn't want to do business with anyone using one of IBM's flagship products.
As it turns out, many of Issa's contributors were using those products and many of them wound up checking in with him, asking if he still wanted to do business with them. Oops.
Real problems need real attention
Which brings me back to my opening comment. There is tremendous wrongdoing and wrong-headedness in Washington, real stuff that's causing serious damage to America and Americans.
It's just a shame that an organization like the National Legal and Policy Center isn't investigating real wrongdoing and trying to solve real problems and instead is wasting time making stuff up.
Well, I guess any press is good press. Sigh.