Google’s Eric Schmidt testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel to respond to charges that Google was manipulating search results to favor its own companies. “Senator, I can assure you we’ve not cooked anything,” Schmidt told Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah). Ironically, Lee is a self-proclaimed free-market Republican, who opposes government intervention in the practices of private businesses.

Lee was the most outspoken committee member on the panel.  “One thing is clear,” he said. “Given its significant ability to steer e-commerce and online information, Google is in a position to determine who will succeed and who will fail on the Internet.”  He added, however, “I am troubled by some of Google’s practices — submitting its own offerings in natural search results, in the most prominent positions on the page.”

In a confrontational exchange with Schmidt about search results, Lee said, “You’ve cooked it so that you’re always third,” prompting Schmidt’s response. Schmidt then went on to say that Google “had learned the lessons” of the past, an oblique reference to Microsoft’s own anti-trust problems thirteen years ago. “One company’s past need not be another company’s future,” he noted. Microsoft is now one of Google’s most vocal adversaries in the anti-trust battle.

The challenges in the hearing crossed party lines, with Democratic Senators Al Franken continuing Lee’s line of questioning. He asked Schmidt whether Google is still using Yelp content to build up its own rival website, Google Places.  “As far as I know, not,” Schmidt responded.

This was not acceptable to Franken. “As far as you know?” he wondered out loud.

One of the bluntest questions in Washington-speak was asked by Committee Chair Herb Kohl, senior Senator from Wisconsin and like Franken, a Democrat. “Do you recognize that in the words that are used and antitrust kind of oversight, your market share constitutes monopoly, dominant … special power dominant for a monopoly firm?” In English, this translates as, “Do you recognize that you are a monopoly?”

Schmidt was rather blunt in his response as well. “I would agree, sir, that we’re in that area,” he answered, but he was quick to modify his response, saying, “I’m not a lawyer.”

In addition to Schmidt, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman also testified before the committee. Appealing to Congress’s much touted desire to create jobs by supporting small businesses, Stoppelman said that with Google dominating the market at the expense of its competitors, he cannot imagine himself starting a new business at this time. “I’d find something else to do,” he said.

Jeffrey Katz, CEO of the comparative shopping site NextTag submitted written testimony. In it, he drew a distinction between Google’s engineering department, which spurs creativity and innovation, and its marketing division, which, he said, stifles competition. “What Google engineering giveth, Google marketing taketh away,” he wrote. He did not continue, “Blessed be the name of Google.”

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