Press Release
CfA Calls on Highway Agency to Strengthen Ethics
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 30, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the non-partisan watchdog group Campaign for Accountability (CfA) called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to improve its ethics enforcement program.  Documents published by the Google Transparency Project reveal that top NHTSA officials were in frequent contact with Google executives while working on federal guidelines for self-driving cars.

Ron Medford, the former deputy director at NHTSA, left the agency in January 2013 to become Google’s Director of Safety for Self-Driving Cars.  Prior to joining Google, Mr. Medford – along with a host of other top officials at the Transportation Department -- communicated regularly by email with high-level Google officials.  The hiring of Mr. Medford was viewed as giving Google “a bureaucrat intimately familiar with the inner-workings of the transportation administration.”  Eight months after Mr. Medford joined Google, he arranged a meeting at Google's headquarters with his successor at NHTSA, David Friedman.

CfA Executive Director Anne Weismann stated, “The close interaction between Google and federal transportation officials raises questions as to whether NHTSA has become too cozy with a company it is charged with regulating.”

In addition to Mr. Medford, at least three other senior NHTSA officials including Administrator David Strickland, Senior Associate Administrator Danny Smith, and Government Affairs Director Chan Lieu left the agency between 2012 and 2015 to aid Google’s work on self-driving cars.  Mr. Strickland and Mr. Lieu joined Venable LLP, a law firm that counts Google as a client, and Mr. Smith apparently serves as a Google consultant.

CfA has asked NHTSA to determine whether Mr. Medford followed the relevant ethics rules and regulations when negotiating his employment and move to Google.  CfA also has asked NHTSA to develop a more robust ethics enforcement process to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

Read the letter here.

September 30, 2016
Top stories_
February 16, 2023

Facebook says it bans U.S.-designated terrorist groups. But the platform has generated more than 100 pages for groups like Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

February 6, 2023

Crisis pregnancy centers pose as abortion clinics but push an anti-abortion message. Google is helping them reach their target audience of low-income women.

January 19, 2023

Facebook bans ‘militia communities.’ But it’s hosting an array of militia groups that push misinformation about migrants at the U.S. southern border.

November 14, 2022

Facebook prohibits the buying and selling of accounts. But the platform hosts a thriving black market for Facebook business manager accounts that can run multiple ad campaigns.