Google-DoubleClick Merger Encounters More Setbacks On Capitol Hill

Just as Google’s (NSDQ: GOOG) $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick seemed it might be decided before the year is out, more roadblocks have been put in the way. Two consumer privacy advocates, The Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy, want FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras to recuse herself from reviewing the pending merger, the AP reports.

EPIC and the CDC contend that Majoras has a conflict of interest. Her husband, John Majoras, an antitrust attorney, is a partner at Jones Day, the law firm DoubleClick hired to handle the merger’s review before the European Commission. The two groups also point out that the FTC chairman was a partner at Jones Day before she was appointed to the federal agency. John Majoras claims he is not a part of the deal either in the U.S. or Europe and that the firm is not involved in the FTC hearings. An FTC rep says that the chairman is reviewing EPIC’s and the CDC’s petition, saying that the agency only became aware of it on Tuesday.

Apart from slowing down the hearing process, the petition for Majoras’ recusal is not likely to affect the agency’s decision much. The opposition from both groups mainly stems from concerns about privacy issues – an area the FTC said it will not address; it’s only interested in antitrust matters.

WSJ: While privacy concerns might hold little sway over the FTC, Congress is another matter. And Google’s relations with that body have been a bit more shaky. Now, one key Congressman looking into that aspect of Google/DoubleClick feels he’s been rebuffed by the internet search giant. The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, has sent a second letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt containing 24 questions about the company’s search, ad-targeting and how it stores consumer’s data. Although Barton considered his initial correspondence with Google to have been warm, Barton now feels snubbed that his repeated request for a staff meeting at Google’s Mountain View headquarters has met with a “chilly response.”

With Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and AT&T (NYSE: T) lobbying vigorously to get lawmakers to block the merger, Google can’t afford any ill will. Google says that they’re happy to receive congressional staffers, but that both sides were unavailable due to the recent holiday schedules. If an in-person meeting can’t be arranged, Google is proposing a video conference. In the meantime, Barton has issued a deadline for Google’s response to his queries: no later than Dec. 18.