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Eric Schmidt speaks out against ALEC on climate change. But what about the rest of Google's ties to deniers?

By David Holmes , written on September 22, 2014

From The News Desk

Last month, Microsoft made headlines after it cut ties with the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC), a Koch Brothers-backed right-wing public policy group that's been involved in a murderer's row of controversial issues over the past three decades.

That includes pushing climate change denial in schools, calling gay people a “health risk,” advocating for controversial Voter ID laws, and crafting a piece of piece legislation that would enact Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law on a federal level. Particularly considering Microsoft's efforts toward promoting environmental stability, the split was no brainer.

Now another high-profile tech firm has come out against ALEC: Google.

In an interview with Diane Rehm on the NPR affiliate WAMU, upon being asked if Google still funded ALEC, Chairman Eric Schmidt said, "I think the consensus within the company was that that was some sort of mistake and so we're trying to not do that in the future."

That's not exactly a definitive vow to cut ties with ALEC, but what Schmidt said next certainly sounds like grounds for divorce.

"Well," Schmidt says, "the company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts -- what a shock. And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people -- they're just, they're just literally lying."

With what appear to be two high-profile defections from ALEC in as many months, this may prompt other big tech firms to follow suit. Facebook, Yelp, and Yahoo all still have representatives on the group's Communications and Technology Task Force, which costs corporations $5,000 a year to join.

The bigger question pertaining to Google, however, is will it now stop funding other groups pushing climate change denial?

ALEC isn't the only one of Google's questionable climate ties. The company was the top donor at last year's annual fundraising dinner for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, another Koch-funded think tank with an equally poor record on climate change misinformation. It published a book called “Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America” which posits that climate change is a myth and that the decline of the coal industry is due to overreaching liberal politicians and not, as most evidence suggests, simple libertarian market forces.

Google is also involved with CEI through its Google Policy Fellowship. According to its website, Google has sent a college student to work for the summer at CEI every year since the program began in 2008. (I emailed Google to ask if they planned to continue funding CEI and I will update the post if I hear back).

In any case, between Microsoft's and Google's strong words against ALEC regarding climate change, along with the heat Facebook received after Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us political action committee funded two anti-environmental commercials, the top echelon of the Silicon Valley community is not only willing to take the region's biggest firms to task over anti-sustainability -- these firms are making real changes in response.

Now if we could only convince Google to react the same way to criticism over its ties to shady military contractors.

[Illustration by Brad Jonas]