CEO is wrong to play politics with Google's brand

Eric Schmidt, whose personal brand is tied up in Google, should have left his corporate logo behind when stumping for presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has officially thrown his weight behind Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential race. I find it a bit unseemly and unfair to the employees at Google, even though many probably support Obama.

I felt the same about then eBay CEO Meg Whitman taking a public stand for John McCain , though at least she was on her way out of the eBay CEO chair at the time.

Google, as a company, has done well to take a neutral stance , inviting both the Republican and Democratic candidates to speak at the Google campus, and providing technology infrastructure at the nominating conventions for both parties.

But Schmidt, as CEO, has done something different. His personal brand is tied up in Google. Just as McCain misused Whitman's name in the second presidential candidate debate, so, too, will Obama (or the media, as it already has) use Schmidt's Google credentials to imply that Google, the company, favors Obama's presidential aspirations. Google employees, meanwhile, have no say in the matter. This is somewhat dubious, even where unions are concerned, but it has no place in a corporation.

It would be different if this were Schmidt espousing a particular political cause that has direct financial ramifications for Google, like Net neutrality , but this is not the case, and it's unfair to his employees to tie up the Google brand in any political party, because a political party's platform includes all sorts of issues that have no place in the message of a technology company.

The same holds true for churches and nonprofits. People can have a political opinion on a candidate. Apolitical organizations should not.

Let Schmidt commit his cash to Obama, but he shouldn't be committing the Google brand to either political candidate. This is what he does when he officially endorses Obama.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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