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Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has run an ultrasecretive summit in Montana for a handful of executives, politicians, and celebrities since at least 2012, the Tech Transparency Project reported Monday.
The event has been hosted every summer at the Yellowstone Club and included guests such as Lady Gaga, Sen. Cory Booker, and journalist Ronan Farrow, according to the organization.
While private retreats aren't uncommon, the under-the-radar nature of the Yellowstone event raises questions about whether it has been used to quietly curry favor for Google or Schmidt's personal projects.
Every summer since at least 2012, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has invited a handful of executives, politicians, celebrities, and at least one journalist to a secretive summit in rural Montana, the Tech Transparency Project reported Monday.
The event is hosted at the Yellowstone Club — a swanky private club where members like Schmidt pay north of $40,000 per year in membership dues — and has included high-profile guests such as Lady Gaga, Sen. Cory Booker, and journalist Ronan Farrow, according to the tech watchdog.
An analysis by the Tech Transparency Project of flight records, media accounts, and social-media posts showed that Google's private jets have flown attendees, including Google staff, to the event, where they engaged in recreational activities as well as discussions on a variety of topics around technology.
However, the Tech Transparency Project reported that Schmidt's event has kept an extremely low profile, with attendees being told not to disclose details. That secrecy and the likely attendee list raise questions about what influence the event and conversations held there might have had over people's relationships with Schmidt or Google — especially for those in positions of power.
The watchdog reported that recent invitees included Austria's chancellor, who was pushing for a new tax on tech companies and eventually abandoned it; Ronan Farrow, who wrote a story after his attendance event that the Tech Transparency Project viewed as too soft on Google; and the founder of a think tank that had been critical of Google's approach to combating extremist content.
Since Schmidt stepped down as Google CEO in 2011, he has played an active role in trying to grow the tech industry's influence on government. ProPublica reported last year that he has gained unprecedented access within the Pentagon despite whistleblower concerns that he could use it to steer business toward Google (in which he still owns a substantial amount of stock). Earlier this year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tapped Schmidt as a tech adviser for the state's post-pandemic reopening.
Schmidt, Lady Gaga, Booker, and Farrow did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this story.
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