Romney Adviser Blasts ‘Phony’ Antitrust Probe of Google

Charlie Black, a veteran Republican strategist and adviser to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, criticized “phony antitrust suits” at an event co-sponsored by Google Inc. (GOOG), a lobbying client whose competitive practices are under U.S. investigation.

“Phony antitrust suits that are completely unnecessary are a distraction” hindering technological innovation in the U.S., Black said at a panel discussion on economic development at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, co-sponsored the event.

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Mountain View, California-based Google is abusing its dominance as operator of the world’s most popular search engine.

The FTC is focusing on whether Google unfairly ranks search results to favor its own businesses and increases advertising rates for competitors, people familiar with the investigation have said. The agency also is examining whether the company uses its control of the Android mobile operating system to discourage smartphone and device makers from using rivals’ applications, the people said.

Black’s firm, Prime Policy Group, received $70,000 in lobbying income from Google during the first quarter of this year, according to disclosures filed with the U.S. Senate.

Black said during a brief interview after the panel discussion that he was referring to the federal investigation of Google.

“The FTC and the Justice Department are fighting over who gets to go after Google, because they’re big and successful,” Black said. “The FTC’s mandate is to protect consumers. Where are the consumers that are hurt?”

Black said the fault lies with Democratic political appointees’ exercise of discretion in antitrust enforcement.

Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, and Rachel Whetstone, the company’s senior vice president for communications and public policy, were among those in attendance as Black spoke.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Dorning in Washington at mdorning@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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