Report details Google's donations to climate change deniers

The company says donations don't equal endorsement.

Google makes "substantial" political contributions to organizations and individuals that deny climate change, according to a new report from The Guardian. One such group is the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which was The Guardian says was instrumental in convincing the Trump administration to abandon the Paris climate agreement.

The list of climate deniers Google supports with financial contributions isn't limited to CEI either. The company's beneficiaries include some of the organizations that are currently working the hardest to prevent any action on climate change. They include the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action. Google has also donated to a variety of Koch-adjacent groups and individuals. One such group is the American Conservative Union whose current chairman, Matt Schlapp, helped shaped Koch Industries' anti-environmental policies.

The company declined to tell The Guardian how much it gives to these groups. On its website, however, Google describes some of the contributions as "substantial." It's important to point out Google also makes significant donations to progressive groups such as the Center for American Progress.

In its defense, a spokesperson for the company said Google's "collaboration" with groups like CEI "does not mean we endorse the organizations' entire agenda." The spokesperson added, "We're hardly alone among companies that contribute to organizations while disagreeing with them on climate policy." We've also reached out to Google for comment on the story.

Indeed, both Amazon and Microsoft have faced employee scrutiny for donating to organizations like CEI. They've also similarly resisted pressure to stop supporting those groups. For instance, when Jeff Bezos announced Amazon's new climate pledge in September, he didn't say the company would outright stop working with climate deniers. He instead said Amazon would review its political contributions.

In a separate article, The Guardian suggests one of the reasons Google supports organizations like CEI is that they help maintain the legal status quo. In particular, it points to a law called the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Section 230 positions companies that publish information online from other sources as distributors. In effect, this law protects companies like Google -- as well as Facebook and other tech giants -- from libel suits.

The CDA has always been beneficial to tech companies. But it's easy to see how Google may feel, due to the current political climate, its protections are needed now more than ever. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), for instance, is just one of the more notable Republicans who has said it's time to revisit the law. For its part, CEI has defended Google against claims that its search engine has an anti-conservative bias.

CEI has also tried to defend the company against antitrust accusations. In a recent op-ed published in The Atlantic, Mario Loyola, a senior fellow at the organization, argued the recently launched antitrust investigation by 50 state attorneys general into Google wouldn't do much good for the public.

One quote, in particular, succinctly captures Google's likely motives. An anonymous source told The Guardian, "When it comes to regulation of technology, Google has to find friends wherever they can and I think it is wise that the company does not apply litmus tests to who they support."

Make sure to read the full reports by visiting The Guardian website.