WSJ: Google Donating to Conservative Groups, Wooing the GOP

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Google — known for championing progressive policies like gay marriage, immigration reform, and reducing greenhouse gases — has been quietly courting the GOP and funding an array of conservative groups, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The Silicon Valley superpower is now evenly splitting its political-action committee donations between the GOP and Democrats, which it had traditionally favored, The Journal said.

The right turn began in 2011 — the same year the Federal Trade Commission moved to bring an antitrust suit against Google that was eventually settled, and when rival Microsoft tried to persuade regulators to go after Google on issues including privacy and antitrust, The Journal reported.

But other big tech companies, like Facebook and Twitter, are also headed in the same direction, The Journal noted.

"Many of the leading tech companies may be located in the Silicon Valley, but they're responsible for creating jobs and growing the economy in virtually every congressional district in every state in the country," Brian Walsh, a former Republican campaign strategist who now works as a political consultant for the tech industry, told The Journal.

"So it only makes smart, long-term strategic sense to build relationships with members of both parties, regardless of who controls Congress or the White House at any given time."

Kevin Madden, a former Mitt Romney adviser, told The Journal the right turn simply "will help forge a more enduring, bipartisan profile for the industry inside the political arena."

According to The Journal, Google's in-house lobbyists are now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats; its spending on lobbying rose from around $1.5 million in 2007 to $14 million in 2013.

And its political-action committee, which supported Democrats 58 percent to 42 percent in the 2008 election cycle, gave slightly more to the GOP during the 2012 cycle, the newspaper said.

In the current cycle, donations to the two parties are running about even, The Journal said.
The largesse has been showered on a variety of right-leaning organizations and politicians, The Journal reported.

Last summer, Google angered environmentalists for hosting a fundraiser for Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, who has slammed the assertion of human-induced climate change.

Google also ponied up $50,000 for last year's fundraiser for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which opposes government policies to cut carbon emissions.

Google's donations also included money to the American Enterprise Institute and Americans for Tax Reform; the libertarian Cato Institute said it received $480,000 worth of free web advertising annually, and Google contributed as much as $49,000 last year to the Federalist Society, that group told The Journal.

Google also donated to the Heritage Action, which helped lead the charge to defund the 2010 healthcare law; to the American Conservative Union, which runs the annual CPAC conference; and to the American Legislative Exchange Council, which writes model conservative legislation for states, The Journal said.

"We support groups across the political spectrum but of course don't agree with them on 100 percent of issues," a spokeswoman said.

But John Simpson, a Google critic from Consumer Watchdog said, "Google is right up there with the Koch Brothers."

"The galling thing is they hold themselves out to be something different."

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