California AG Mysteriously Absent From Google Probe

Dem AG Becerra received $7,300 from search giant

California attorney general Xavier Becerra / Getty Images

California attorney general Xavier Becerra is one of just two state attorneys general to not participate in a massive antitrust investigation against Google.

On Monday, a coalition of attorneys general from 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia announced a massive, wide-reaching antitrust investigation into Google. The initial object of the investigation will be the firm's advertising practices, with the combined resources of the group aimed at determining whether the search giant engages in anticompetitive business practices.

Only two states are absent from the investigation: Alabama and California, the state Google calls home.

Becerra has a history of aggressive antitrust investigations and enforcement. He loudly touted a $69 million settlement with a pharmaceutical firm over antitrust allegations, and is co-lead on cases targeting T-Mobile and Sprint and the northern California hospital system Sutter Health. In October, Becerra said that California's antitrust regime must be "forward-thinking" to cope with the digital revolution.

"As technology and the economy change, so too should our methods of antitrust enforcement and regulation," he said. "State attorneys general are the boots on the ground of antitrust enforcement, and we're bringing California's strong track record of innovative consumer protection to the table in these discussions. Together, we can achieve our collective goals to strengthen competition and consumer protection."

Becerra's non-involvement puts him at odds with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Democratic congressional leaders called for revitalizing antitrust enforcement in their "A Better Deal" plan and major presidential contenders such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) have also taken aim at tech giants. In July, U.S. attorney general William Barr announced his own investigation into "market-leading online platforms" in general, with Google likely to be a prime target.

In fact, the only friend Becerra is left with is Google. The tech firm is a major player in California politics. State records show that the firm gave $181,300 in contributions during the 2018 election cycle alone, including $7,300 to Becerra's campaign, and $29,200 to Democratic governor Gavin Newsom.

When reached for comment, the California attorney general's office declined to say whether it would participate in the investigation, emphasizing that it had not announced a determination one way or the other.

"California remains deeply concerned and committed to fighting anti-competitive behavior," a spokesperson said. "But to protect the integrity of our work, we can't comment — to confirm or deny any pending or potential investigation."