Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal Inc., speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Google Critic Thiel Gave Money to Official Probing Search Giant

(Bloomberg) -- Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist who backed Donald Trump’s presidential run, gave $300,000 to a political campaign of Josh Hawley, the Missouri attorney general who opened an antitrust investigation into Google this week.

Hawley, a Republican, unveiled a probe into Alphabet Inc.’s Google for favoring its own products in search results, citing the similar case in the European Union that resulted in a record fine. His subpoena is the only publicly disclosed government antitrust probe against Google in the U.S. since the Federal Trade Commission picked up, then dropped, a competition case in 2013.

Thiel made a $100,000 contribution in 2015 to Hawley for the attorney general race, and gave two more $100,000 donations in 2016, according to Missouri state campaign finance filings. Hawley won the election and was sworn in on Jan. 9, 2017.

Thiel, an early investor in Facebook Inc. and a board member, has criticized Google for years. In 2012, he sparred with then-Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt on stage at a conference, calling the company’s search engine a monopoly. “It’s quite legal to have a monopoly as long as you don’t abuse it," he added. In his book, "Zero to One," Thiel argued Google was a monopoly and said every company should want to be one.

A spokesman for Thiel declined to comment, as did a Google spokeswoman.

In 2016, the idiosyncratic investor who co-founded PayPal gave to Trump’s campaign, and now serves as an informal liaison between Republicans and the often-liberal world of Silicon Valley. He also gave to California Democrat Ro Khanna in his successful run for the House of Representatives. Thiel also contributed $100,000 to then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in 2013, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Hawley is now running for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Claire McCaskill. According to federal campaign donation records, Thiel has not donated to Hawley’s latest campaign.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.