Senior Google Lobbyist Is Stepping Down From Her Role

Posted November 2, 2018 1:25 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — Susan Molinari, who leads Google’s federal lobbying and policy effort and is a former Republican congresswoman from New York, is stepping down from her role at the company.

The change comes during a turbulent time for Google and is the latest indication of a shake-up at the company’s massive Washington operation.

Google has been under fire from lawmakers in Washington and Europe and faces growing antitrust scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic. Corporate leaders at Alphabet, Google’s parent company, have been criticized by their workers on artificial intelligence work with the Pentagon and for developing a search engine that would censor results in China.

Google subsequently did not renew its Pentagon contract and hasn’t moved forward on the search product for China. Thousands of employees also walked out of work Thursday to protest the company’s treatment of women.

“I am writing to share the news that after nearly seven years at Google, running the Americas Policy team and leading our D.C. office, Susan has decided to take on a new role,” Karan Bhatia, Google’s global policy chief, said in a memo to his staff Friday.

In a statement, Molinari called her time at Google “exhilarating” and “exhausting.” She said she began looking for the right time to step back from her responsibilities amid several life changes, including her husband’s retirement, her daughter’s college graduation and her father’s death.

Axios earlier reported on Molinari leaving her role.

Molinari joined Google in 2012 as vice president of policy and government relations for the Americas.

During that time, Eric Schmidt, the company’s former chief executive and current board member, was often a large presence in Washington. Schmidt and other senior Google leaders were close with the Obama White House. Several went to work in government, including Megan Smith, a former Google executive who became the chief technology officer at the White House and an assistant to the president.

After the election of President Donald Trump, Schmidt’s presence in Washington waned. Molinari was poised to take on some of his former lobbying duties, but it is unclear how effective she was at working with the Trump administration. She has not been able to stem attacks by Republicans like Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, on issues such as political bias in Google’s search results.

Google ranked first among companies in lobbying spending last year, but its Washington operation has been under fire for months.

Last year, Google pushed out a former Obama administration official, Caroline Atkinson, vice president of global public policy, from her role. That job remained empty for several months until Google hired Bhatia, the head of global policy from GE.

The Washington office, including Molinari, has been blamed inside Google for not sending an executive to a recent Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian interference, according to a person familiar with internal discussions and who was not authorized to speak about it publicly. The committee focused on Google’s absence during the hearing, putting an empty chair at the witness table in his place.

Bhatia said that after a transition period, Molinari would continue as an adviser at Google. The company is looking for a replacement for Molinari.