Google Hosts Fundraiser for Climate-Denying Senator James Inhofe

Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil.” The politically correct company goes to great length to reduce its carbon footprint and support other liberal causes. So why is it holding a fundraiser for far-right Sen. James Inhofe?

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Despite their skill at understanding what people want on the Web, tech companies have proven to be shockingly clumsy in their recent forays into politics.

In the latest installment in this long-running series, one of the most politically correct companies in Silicon Valley on Thursday will host a fundraising lunch for one of the most politically incorrect members of Congress. Google, which prides itself on investing in carbon-free energy sources, is hosting an event for Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, a proud climate-change denier and all-around wingnut. This comes after The Washington Post reported that Google beat out the Koch brothers for top donor by making a $50,000 donation to the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute at a dinner headlined by another opponent of environmental legislation: Sen. Rand Paul.

Inhofe isn’t just an ordinary denier of climate-change science. He’s one of its more truculent opponents. Inhofe has called it a mass delusion. He has said, “I could use the Third Reich, the big lie” to describe those supporting climate change. He has called climate-change science “the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state.”

By contrast, Google has made combating climate change a core part of its business operating strategy and brand. It created Google Green in an attempt to run Google entirely on renewable energy to “create a better future for everyone.” According to Google, the company has invested over $1 billion in renewable-energy projects, which has earned the company a Green Power Leadership Award in 2011 from the Environmental Protection Agency (an organization Inhofe vehemently opposes at every turn). Co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin drive low-emitting Priuses and Teslas. The company has installed dozens of electric-vehicle charging stations on its campus.

By their words and deeds, Google’s leaders express contempt for the type of flat-eartherism that Inhofe represents. As The Verge reported, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said, “You can hold back knowledge. You cannot prevent it from spreading. You can lie about the effects of climate change, but eventually you'll be seen as a liar.”

When asked about why the company is hosting a fundraiser for the rabid climate-change denier, a Google spokesperson told The Guardian: “We regularly host fundraisers for candidates, on both sides of the aisle, but that doesn't mean we endorse all of their positions. And while we disagree on climate-change policy, we share an interest with Senator Inhofe in the employees and data center we have in Oklahoma.”

Ironically, those same data centers are often held up by Google as shining examples of the company’s green policies. In a 2008 interview with The New York Times, Google’s head of climate and energy initiatives said, “Google is a big electricity user. So we want higher efficiency and use of renewables in our data centers ... Lastly, we're putting our money and clout to work in Washington.” Google’s own timeline of important company events notes that it was the “first major Internet services company to have all of our U.S. owned and operated data centers receive ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 certification, high standards for environmental management and workforce safety.”

As Climate Progress notes, on top of his anti-environmental record, Inhofe is also staunchly against Net neutrality, a legislative measure Google strongly supports for business reasons and for which it has been politically active. Google strongly supports equality for gay Americans; Inhofe is a loud and proud homophobe. Google supports comprehensive immigration reform; Inhofe opposes it. And so on.

Now, Inhofe may side with Google on other matters of legislation that are important to the company—a reduction in corporate tax rates, for example. But as an uncooperative member of an uncooperative minority, he has little ability to move legislation. And so long as Inhofe and his allies populate the halls of Congress, Google will find Washington reluctant to make progress on a host of issues that are near and dear to its corporate heart.