Eric Schmidt has long sought influence over U.S. science policy. Under Biden’s former science chief, Eric Lander, Schmidt’s foundation helped cover officials’ salaries, even as the office’s general counsel raised ethical flags.
As President Joe Biden granted his science office unprecedented access and power, one outside adviser to that office has attained what staffers describe as an unusual level of influence.
A foundation controlled by Eric Schmidt, the multi-billionaire former CEO of Google, has played an extraordinary, albeit private, role in shaping the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy over the past year.
More than a dozen officials in the 140-person White House office have been associates of Schmidt’s, including some current and former Schmidt employees, according to interviews with current and former staff members and internal emails obtained by POLITICO.
Schmidt maintained a close relationship with the president’s former science adviser, Eric Lander, and other Biden appointees. And his charity arm, Schmidt Futures, indirectly paid the salaries of two science-office employees, including, for six weeks, that of the current chief of staff, Marc Aidinoff, who is now one of the most senior officials in the office following Lander’s resignation in February. The chief innovation officer at Schmidt Futures, OSTP alum Tom Kalil, also remained on Schmidt’s payroll while working as an unpaid consultant at the science office for four months last year until he left the post following ethics complaints.