An article in the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday seems to suggest that Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are currying favor with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom at a time when Google is bidding for a contract to offer free wireless Internet to the city's residents. Google offered Newsom a ride on a chartered jet to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year, the article points out. The newspaper also obtained e-mails that show that Page's secretary contacted Newsom's secretary to invite him to a weekend in the trendy Squaw Valley ski resort a year ago. And then there's campaign contributions. Nearly 20 Google employees have donated $8,600 to Newsom's mayoral campaign since 2004, according to the newspaper.
Newsom accepted a return flight on the plane from Europe (on which former Vice President Al Gore also was a passenger) and reimbursed Google $1,000 for the lift, the article says. And Newsom's schedule was booked the weekend Page wanted to hang out. Meanwhile, neither Page nor Brin personally, nor Google, have made any donations to Newsom's campaign, the paper says.
The Chronicle acknowledges that none of the activity was illegal and reported that Newsom says Google has no advantage over the other bidders for the wireless contract. In fact, Newsom has made steps of his own to befriend the Google founders over the years, including inviting them to parties such as last year's celebration to honor England's Prince Charles. The mayor also says he is buddies with other local tech CEOs such as Oracle's Larry Ellison and Yahoo's Terry Semel. "You want advocacy and lobbying?" Newsom says. "I'm lobbying (Google), I'm all over them to move some employees to San Francisco."