Sen. Cruz Opens Investigation into Big Tech Funding Salaries of Biden Admin. Officials

July 9, 2024

Companies may be exploiting the Intergovernmental Personnel Act program to shape AI policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has opened an investigation into Big Tech companies’ funding of Biden administration staff salaries through an obscure program.

Last October, President Biden issued an executive order directing federal agencies to engage in over 100 specific actions to establish AI-related guidance across various policy areas, resulting in a purported need to hire hundreds of federal employees to focus on AI. In April, the White House announced that the agencies had completed all required actions, yet had hired only 150 people into AI roles, calling into question how the agencies completed so much work in such a short time.

In letters to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Commerce (Commerce), National Science Foundation (NSF), and Department of Transportation (DOT), Sen. Cruz questioned whether the Biden administration was utilizing the obscure Intergovernmental Personnel Act program to temporarily hire Big Tech AI employees to carry out President Biden’s AI executive order.

“To complete every action, agencies would have had to . . . bring on AI fellows by recruiting temporary—but influential—AI staff from external organizations through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) program. Critics, however, have raised reasonable concerns that these influential AI fellows are shaping federal policy to benefit their organizations’ funders and not the American people. Moreover, as federal agencies request increased funding for AI hiring, it is important Congress understand the extent to which, and how, agencies have already acquired AI staff in response to the expansive and demanding AI Executive Order.”

As Sen. Cruz points out, acquiring temporary staff funded by Big Tech companies to establish and implement the administration’s AI policy creates serious conflicts of interest.

“The administration’s reported use of the IPA program to obtain AI staff, however, raises the question whether outside AI groups are improperly influencing federal AI policy. For instance, in March 2022, Politico reported that Google’s former CEO, Eric Schmidt, was using the IPA program to fund his associates’ placement at the Office of Scientific and Technology Policy in the White House, which “is executing on an aggressive agenda” regarding “algorithmic discrimination in the use of artificial intelligence”—an alarmist phrase meant to justify the unelected bureaucracy’s policing and potential censorship of AI algorithms. And a March 2024 report revealed that through the IPA program, Facebook billionaire Dustin Moskovitz—a leader of the “Effective Altruism” movement—is paying the salaries of his fellows serving in AI roles at the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Commerce. In effect, large AI technology companies are influencing the Biden administration’s AI policy from the inside and advancing their own anti-competitive agenda to shape the future of the AI industry.

Because agencies are not required to report IPA assignments, the Biden administration can utilize these Big-Tech funded AI fellows with zero transparency to the American people.

“The answer may be that agencies are utilizing the IPA program, which allows certain non-profit groups, universities, and other organizations to temporarily place their employees at federal agencies and pay their salaries. Agencies are not required to report records of IPA assignments to the Office of Personnel Management, making the program an attractive option for federal agencies to obtain talent at no cost while avoiding oversight and transparency. Indeed, the White House’s AI and Tech Talent Task Force’s April 2024 Report to the President recommends that he ‘call[] on institutions across the tech ecosystem and agencies to consider expanding their use of and funding for these valuable talent exchange programs,’ including the IPA.”

Sen. Cruz concluded by requesting the FTC, Commerce, NSF, and DOT turn over documents and answer a series of written responses regarding employees or IPA program fellows hired to carry out President Biden’s AI executive order no later than July 15, 2024.

For the letter to the FTC, click HERE.

For the letter to Commerce, click HERE.

For the letter to NSF, click HERE.

For the letter to DOT, click HERE.