Sunday, December 11, 2022

EU Parliament VP arrested for corruption charges served on Big Tech astroturfing operations' boards, one of which partnered with Apple's ACT | The App Association and Apple-Google-funded CCIA

These days, the #1 topic in EU politics is that "European Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili has been arrested in an investigation into suspected bribery by a Gulf state" (BBC). "Cash worth about €600,000 ($632,000; £515,000) was seized by Belgian police in 16 searches in Brussels on Friday."

Eva Kaili is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. Even if those accusations were ultimately proven to be correct, some people would go to jail only because they did in secret--with bags of cash--what many hundreds, if not thousands of Members of the European Parliament have lawfully done. Corruption is not prohibited in the EU Parliament as long as it is officially declared as a "job" or a "consultancy." A leading German constitutional scholar criticized that practice as "legalized corruption"--with one particularly controversial example having been an MEP who was--at the same time as he was a parliamentarian--the head of media conglomerate Bertelsmann's EU lobbying office.

Today, Politico published an opinion piece by a professor, proposing various reforms in light of the Kaili scandal. In response to Politico's tweet about that article, Sebastiano Toffaletti--Secretary General at the European DIGITAL SME [small and medium-sized enterprise] Alliance--said the arrested vice president of the EU Parliament "is clearly linked to at least two of the 'SME or startup associations' accused of being linked to #bigtech":

There are various so-called SME or startup associations out there that are just astroturfing for certain Big Tech companies. In October, three well-respected Members of the European Parliament with a focus on digital industry policy filed formal complaints with the European Commission. And indeed, at least two of the organizations in question--Allied for Startups and SME Connect--also secured Mrs. Kaili's services (though I'm sure they did it legally, not with bags of cash).

First, SME Connect on Sunday still listed Mrs. Kaili as a board member (click on the image to enlarge):

The following screenshot is from Allied for Startups' annual report, and on the right you can see Mrs. Kaili's picture as she served on that organization's advisory board (click on the image to enlarge):

Allied for Startups lobbied against the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA), and in those contexts signed statements with CCIA, which has been funded by Google for a long time and is now also supported by Apple, as well as ACT | The Appl(le) Association, which as Bloomberg revealed in September receives most of its funding from--and takes directions from--Apple. The following two screenshots prove the connection (click on an image to enlarge):

I agree with Mr. Toffaletti that the EU should take action against astroturfing, but the European Commission even condones it from time to time. On Tuesday, ACT | The App(le) Association will get to lobby for Apple while claiming to represent small app developers and IoT device makers at an event (How Standards help Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) to Innovate, Compete, and Grow) that is co-organized by the European Commission's Directorate-General for the Internal Market (DG GROW) and the United States Department of Commerce. Someone forgot to invite Mrs. Kaili though. Or maybe they did invite her, but under the circumstances she can't participate...