Google Rises to the Top, Of Lobbyists That Is

At this month’s annual shareholder meeting, for the first time Google is the subject of a shareholder resolution, used to pressure companies on meeting their environmental and social responsibilities.

Introduced by social investment firm Walden Asset Management, it asks Google to quit its membership in ALEC and the US Chamber of Commerce and to disclose spending on lobbying and funding political groups.

"Google’s lack of transparency about its political spending and membership in groups like the US Chamber and ALEC contradict the company’s "Don’t Be Evil" brand, hurt democracy, and undermine Google’s stated commitments to open Internet and combatting climate change," say the groups Walden represents.

This comes at a time when social investment firms are pressing companies to completely refrain from making political contributions, after unprecedented spending in the 2012 elections.

Groups Walden represents: Public Citizen, Forecast the Facts, California Common Cause; Eviction Free San Francisco; SEIU-United Service Workers West; and Steve Wilke, a partner in an Oklahoma solar firm that’s being hurt by ALEC’s advocacy for taxing rooftop solar.

Google’s extensive green roof system at its expanded headquarters is one of the many ways it leads on the environment:

Google green roof

Google Rises To the Top

Incredibly, Google is now a top corporate political spender in Washington DC, second only to General Electric in 2012 and coming in fifth in 2013, reports the Washington Post.
In 2004, it ranked 213th.

It donates to about 140 trade associations, advocacy groups and think tanks – double that of four years ago – according to Washington Post’s analysis of voluntary disclosures (which don’t include the size of donations).

Just as amazing, Google’s new office at Capitol Hill is about the same size as the White House – 55,000 square feet.

Why such a turn-around from the idealistic firm that frowned on "pay to play"?

Google says it’s working to keep the Internet open, "supporting associations and third parties across the political spectrum who help us get the word out – even if we don’t agree with them on 100 percent of issues," Susan Molinari, told Washington Post. She’s Google’s top lobbyist and a former Republican congresswoman. 

Google has over 100 lobbyists split equally along partisan lines, the same split as campaign donations.

It now funds a raft of the most conservative groups, mostly funded by the Koch Bros. They work against Google’s strong environmental agenda: Heritage Action for America; Federalist Society, lead climate denier Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Competitive Enterprise Institute, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and even the American Conservative Union (best known for its CPAC conference).

Non-profits (like those above) get in-kind advertising and custom YouTube channels, tutoring on how to reach voters through the Internet, and even paid fellows – young lawyers and writers – that donate time to think tanks.

"One of the things we’ve recognized is that no company can get anything done in Washington without partnerships on both sides of the aisle," Adam Kovacevich of Google’s policy team, told Washington Post.

Understandable, but does Google have to that far? Shareholder groups think not.

Read our article, Why is Google Funding ALEC?

Read the full Washington Post article, and if you agree, sign the petition:

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