To say that the departing Congress was known for inaction, gridlock, and partisan hackery is to understate the truth. However, the Senate recently managed to confirm all of the President’s Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission nominees.

Mignon Clyburn will get a second term at the FCC, and Joshua Wright will start his first term at the FTC.

Normally, minutia of this sort is a bit too granular for regular coverage, but in this case there is a special wrinkle to the proceedings that make it worth your attention. According to The hill, Wright, a Republican if that matters, has “received funding from Google for some of his academic research.” This has led to his promise to recuse himself in FTC action that involves the company for two years.

Given that the FTC has current action with Google concerning potential anti-trust violations, this is a non-trivial issue; Wright will be effectively benched for the case. The FTC has five commissioners at any given time, meaning that Wright’s recusal represents a key curtailment of the top staff of the agency.

This is speculation, but having an even number of commissioners at the FTC on the Google case could perhaps set up a situation by which there is a tie. That logistical possibility leans on Google’s favor.

Google and the FTC have frequent business together. In summer of last year, Google paid a $22.5 million fine over Safari-related privacy issues. The company did not have to admit guilt as part of the deal. In more recent news, Google and the FTC are tangling over the company perhaps favoring its own services and products. If Google has been using its own search engine to advance its own services over those of others, it could face painful recriminations  The company’s massive search market share makes it a frequent target regulatory action. Several senators worried that Wright would be lax in his application of laws relating to consumer protection.

2013 should bring plenty of new sparks between Google and the regulatory arms of the U.S. government.

Top Image Credit: Isaac Wedin