CfA Releases New Report Revealing Google’s Longstanding Ties to Koch Political Network
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 23, 2019
Contact: Daniel Stevens, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group, which runs the Google Transparency Project, released a new report documenting the deep, and longstanding alliance between Google and the Koch political network. The report details how since 2010 Google and the Kochs have funded 32 nonprofit organizations and universities to advance their shared political agenda.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “Google executives pretend that the company is a liberal bastion of equity and inclusion, but our research shows Google is as calculating as Big Tobacco. Google funds a vast number of conservative policy groups and works with the Koch network to advance conservative causes in Washington, all aimed at bolstering the company’s bottom line.”
CfA’s report details how, over the past decade, Google has slowly built up its ties to the Koch network to establish a conservative defense against regulatory threats. After Google’s then-CEO Eric Schmidt faced a grilling by congressional Republicans in 2011, the company stepped up its outreach to conservative causes. In 2012, the company made the first of what would become annual donations to Atlas Network, a nonprofit that gives money to nearly 500 free-market organizations around the world. The group was founded by the grandfather of a Google PR executive, Rachel Whetstone, whose mother is still the chairman of the group’s board.
Since Schmidt’s grilling, Google has funded 32 nonprofit groups and universities that the Koch network also supports. This includes 22 avowedly conservative or libertarian groups that have received backing from the Koch network such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), CATO, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Heritage Foundation.
These groups have consistently promoted Google’s interests. AEI, for example, in 2016 sponsored a trip for members of Congress to Sea Island, Georgia, and the program included a talk by Eric Schmidt, in which he discussed his views on technology regulation and privacy.
Much of the overlapping advocacy work has been run by Engine, an advocacy nonprofit created by Google public policy employees that is effectively a branch of the company’s lobbying operation. In August 2017, an executive at the Charles Koch Institute and an Engine executive cowrote an op-ed in The Hill defending internet platforms. The two groups also have worked together to host briefings on Capitol Hill about policy issues that are crucial to Google’s business.
The partnership appears to be part of the Koch family’s larger strategy to reach out to Silicon Valley and enhance its tech credentials. Since 2013, Koch Industries has invested more than $17 billion in technology companies, but the family has not always been welcome in Silicon Valley because of its support for conservative causes. The new strategy appears to be spearheaded by Chase Koch, the 42-year-old son of Charles Koch, who previously led the family’s venture capital arm, Koch Disruptive Technologies. The subsidiary co-invested in two different startups alongside Google and its executives.
In 2019, the Kochs stepped up their public support for Google when Americans for Prosperity launched a series of ad campaigns opposing antitrust enforcement against tech companies. According to one estimate, the Koch network has spent more than $10 million since 2015 defending Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook from regulatory challenges in Washington.
Mr. Stevens continued, “While many companies donate to groups on both the right and left, Google has always held itself out as a liberal corporation that uses its influence for good. This report reveals that Google has reached the same level of maturation as older tech companies like Microsoft. Google has learned that it needs to play both sides of the aisle in order to get what it wants from Washington. Google employees should be alarmed that the company is using its massive wealth and power to help right-wing ideologues like the Kochs achieve their policy goals.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.