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Gawker-Destroyer Peter Thiel Contributed $300,000 To AG Investigating Google.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article184113056.html) is taking aim at Google in an investigation  opened this week into whether the tech giant has violated the state's antitrust and consumer protection laws. And according to state campaign finance filings, Hawley has received $300,000 from longtime Google critic and the person who helped bring down Gawker 6 Peter Thiel.

Hawley announced his subpoena to Alphabet Inc. on Monday, particularly focusing on the search titan's collection of personal information from users. Hawley's investigation dives into whether Google has manipulated search results at the expense of competitors in order to maintain a monopoly-like edge over its competitors. Hawley's subpoena is the most pointed case against Google since the 2013 competition case that was later dropped by the Federal Trade Commission. 

According to Missouri state campaign finance filings, (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-15/peter-thiel-gave-money-to-attorney-general-going-after-google) first reported on by Bloomberg , Thiel contributed $100,000 to Hawley in 2015 before donating two more $100,000 bundles to the then-candidate for attorney general in 2016. Hawley, a Republican, won the election and was sworn into office on Jan. 9, 2017. Thiel himself has been no stranger to politics, having been a longtime proponent of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

"When a company has access to as much consumer information as Google does, it's my duty to ensure they are using it appropriately," said Hawley Monday, who is also beginning his campaign for U.S. Senate against incumbent Claire McCaskill, a Democrat. "I will not let Missouri consumers and businesses be exploited by industry giants."

Requests for comment from McCaskill and Hawley's offices were not immediately returned.

Thiel's large third-party donation to Hawley comes after his secretive financial support of a Hulk Hogan invasion of privacy lawsuit that brought down the news website Gawker in 2016. The billionaire entrepreneur's support of the professional wrestler led to a $140 million judgment that caused Gawker's bankruptcy.

Thiel is a Silicon Valley legend, having been part of a group of influential tech investors dubbed the "PayPal Mafia" as well as one of Facebook's earliest and largest investors. He has also been an ardent critic of Google, dubbing Alphabet Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt in 2012 "Google's administrator of propaganda."

"Google is not a tech company," Thiel said at Fortune's Brainstorm Conference, making the argument the company only does search and someone else will come up with a better way to conduct searches. "So investing in Google is betting against innovation." Thiel took a dig at Google's office culture, saying employees "like computers more than people."

Thiel added that Google has a "world-class monopoly" on search, but "it's quite legal to have a monopoly as long as you don't abuse it."

Amendments in 1976 to the Clayton Act, which prevents mergers and other practices to "substantially reduce" competition, (https://ago.mo.gov/civil-division/consumer/antitrust-laws/what-are-the-antitrust-laws-) granted States' Attorneys General the power to represent state residents in federal antitrust lawsuits seeking damages. Chapter 416 of Missouri's Revised Statutes allows Hawley to conduct confidential investigations into suspected antitrust violations on behalf of state entities or residents.
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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Geographic Code:1U4MO
Date:Nov 15, 2017
Words:527
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