- Only two states aren’t a part of the joint antitrust investigation into Google – California and Alabama.
- The attorneys general of those two states didn’t offer much of an explanation for declining to join the inquiry, which was announced Monday.
- California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has talked tough on tech in the past and has established a reputation for taking on powerful figures, filing dozens of suits against the Trump administration.
- But he’s also accepted significant campaign contributions from Google, which is headquartered in his state.
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Only two state attorneys general aren’t taking part in the multi-state antitrust investigation of Google and one of them just happens to be the head of law enforcement in the company’s home state.
Xavier Becerra and Steve Marshall, the attorneys general of California and Alabama, respectively, are the only two holdouts in the joint state investigation of the two tech companies. It’s unclear why neither is taking part in the investigation, and neither offered much of an explanation.
“California remains deeply concerned and committed to fighting anticompetitive behaviour,” a representative of the California Attorney General’s Office said in an emailed statement. “Regarding this investigation or any other, to protect the integrity of potential and ongoing investigations, we cannot provide comment.”
Press representatives for Marshall, meanwhile, did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.
The attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 48 states announced Monday they are investigating Google’s advertising practices and whether the search giant has harmed competitors. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading the joint inquiry.
Becerra and Marshall would seem to have little in common other than being attorneys general of their respective states and declining to take part in the joint investigation. Becerra is a Democrat in an urban, deep-blue state whose Silicon Valley region is the epicentre of the tech industry. Marshall, meanwhile, is a Republican in one of the reddest, most rural states in the nation.
Becerra has faced off with Trump and talked tough on tech
Becerra has gotten a reputation for being willing to challenge powerful figures. Since he became attorney general in 2017, his office has sued the Trump administration at least 56 times, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, challenging it on everything from immigration policy to the environment.
He’s also talked tough on tech. Earlier this year, he called on his state’s legislature to strengthen the California Consumer Privacy Act, which is due to take effect next year. Becerra pressed legislators to give consumers more rights to sue companies over breaches of their private information and violations of the act.
At an event in San Francisco in March sponsored by The Washington Post, Becerra talked about needing to hold tech companies accountable for their actions, and for states to take the lead in reining them in.
“Now, it’s time to treat the industry as an adult,” Becerra said at the event. “You have to act like an adult and you have to understand there are consequences that adults face when they don’t do things the right way.”
Google has been one of the top contributors to Becerra’s recent campaigns. The company contributed $US10,200 to his 2016 re-election campaign as a member of the US House of Representatives, making it his eight largest contributor in that campaign cycle, according to OpenSecrets. The search giant contributed $US7,300 to his campaign for attorney general last year, according to data from the California Secretary of State’s office.
Becerra’s lack of participation in the Google investigation drew condemnation from the other side of the political aisle.
“Attorney General Becerra’s refusal to join the bipartisan investigation into the tech giants is embarrassing,” California Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, a Republican, said in an emailed statement. “California deserves to be at the table.”
The states’ probe of Google is one of numerous antitrust investigations going on against the big tech companies either in the US or overseas. Facebook, Amazon, and Apple have also drawn scrutiny from competition regulators.
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