No, Google Isn’t The Far Right’s Sugar Daddy

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A report in PRWatch made it more publicly known that Google has made donations to a number of conservative groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, the CATO Institute, and Heritage Action.

Americans for Tax Reform is known for its founder Grover Norquist and his pledge, which many conservative politicians sign, promising to not raise taxes. The CATO Institute was founded with Koch money, and Heritage Action had a hand in the government shutdown.

Is Google a quiet firehose of cash to conservative causes and groups, foundations and think tanks? Not really.

The company voluntarily reports a large number of groups that it supports through its U.S. Public Policy and Government Affairs team. It’s a massive list, sporting 93 “third party” names, not including trade groups and the like that Google is part of. It’s a diverse grouping, ranging from the mundane (AARP), to the unsurprising (TechNet, US Chamber of Commerce), the lefty (Center for American Progress Action Fund), and yes, the conservative, as with the groups mentioned above.

The list of recipients of Mountain View’s monies include Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, a number of groups looking to help keep kids from seeing smut online (the horror!), a few university groups like the Institute for IP and Social Justice at Howard Law School, the National Association of the Deaf and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Google therefore donates not only across political boundaries, but across issues, topics, and the like. An ideologically narrow company it is not, as it plays with both sides of the aisle.

The company’s donations support its goal of fostering an open Internet. As Google depends on the Internet remaining as unfettered as possible, spending to support that cause is reasonable, and hardly something worthy of our opprobrium.

Let’s take a look at how much money Google recently gave to the two political parties through its political action committee [Via Open Secrets]:

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Google appears to be exceptionally partisan. NetPAC’s full list of donations to political candidates can be found here.

It’s also worth considering that much of Google’s political activity can be viewed as defensive. The company has huge surface area to regulation, antitrust concerns, privacy issues, and so forth. That it donates around the D.C. area is likely an effective use of monetary capital to engender goodwill. Google doesn’t ignore the political machine, because the political machine won’t leave it alone.

Also, Google, along with its cohort of Internet companies, has huge interest in the outcome of things such as net neutrality, curtailing the NSA and so forth. As such, the company has greatly increased its lobbying efforts. It now ranks 8th in terms of dollars spent on lobbying.

Given my personal political leanings, I feel one way or the other about some of its donations, as I don’t like to see funds flowing to my foes, opponents and other scum that I dislike. But Google’s payouts appear bipartisan and intellectually diverse enough that they aren’t really anyone’s best friend.

Google declined to comment for this post.

Illustration: Bryce Durbin