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Google Refuses Request for Page or Schmidt to Testify Before Congress

Google has refused to provide CEO Larry Page or Chairman Eric Schmidt to testify for a Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights hearing, despite the threat of a subpoena by the full Judiciary Committee, Bloomberg reported yesterday.

The Subcommittee plans to hold a hearing on whether Google is abusing its dominance on the Web before the August congressional recess, Politico reported.

“We would very much prefer to work this out by agreement rather than needing to resort to more formal procedures,” Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Ranking Member Mike Lee (R-UT) wrote to Google on June 10, according to Politico. The letter said the hearing “will address fundamental questions of business operations rather than merely legal issues,” Bloomberg reported, adding that  they wrote to Google after the company said it would offer Chief Legal Officer David Drummond for the hearing, Bloomberg reported.

“I’m very disappointed in Google’s response to the request to have Larry Page or Eric Schmidt testify at our subcommittee hearing,” Lee said in an e-mailed statement after discussions with the company yesterday, Bloomberg reported. Kohl’s spokeswoman, Lynn Becker, said the senator “feels it’s imperative that Mr. Schmidt or Mr. Page participate and is hopeful their attendance can be confirmed soon.”

Why is Google worried about putting its CEO or Chairman before the Senate subcommittee? Shouldn’t Google want to say the same things before a Senate committee, under oath and the threat of perjury, that it’s already telling the public about its practices?

Perhaps it’s because Google’s business practices are already under investigation by antitrust regulators at the European Commission and by the Texas Attorney General, with other states considering their own antitrust investigations of potential violations of U.S. law. Not to mention that the Justice Department’s antitrust division is reviewing Google’s $400 million proposed acquisition of online advertising company AdMeld. And then there’s today’s coverage that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is poised to open a broad antitrust probe into Google.

Google’s refusal to provide Schmidt is laughable, given that Schmidt visited D.C. recently for a U.S. state dinner at the White House for German P.M. Angela Merkel. AllThingsD summed it up best in a post entitled, “Eric And Larry Will Pass on the Antitrust Hearing, But if You’ve Got a Dinner Gala Coming Up, Let Them Know.”

If Page and Schmidt won’t join the Subcommittee in Washington, this Consumer Watchdog’s interpretation of a Congressional hearing is the next best thing.