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Google Takes Step to Rectify Conflicting Climate Message: Public Citizen Calls for Google to Also Leave U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Sept. 23, 2014

Google Takes Step to Rectify Conflicting Climate Message: Public Citizen Calls for Google to Also Leave U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Note: Yesterday, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt declared that Google would be severing its relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) due to its positions on climate change. ALEC confirmed the move in a statement.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen applauds Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt for doing the right thing and declaring that Google will withdraw support from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) over that organization’s denial of climate change and obstruction of action to deal with the looming climate crisis.

To be consistent, Google must also stop supporting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Yesterday in his interview with NPR’s Diane Rehm, Schmidt said, “The company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts.” The facts show that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has acted as a powerful retrograde force in the politics of dealing with climate change. The Chamber advocates for policies that benefit some of the biggest dirty energy companies in the world, such as demanding increases in fossil-fuel extraction in projects like the Keystone XL pipeline. The Chamber has even called for putting “the science of climate change on trial.”

“Google could be a leader in many ways, but on putting its membership where its mouth is, it has been a follower – until now. Google, keep on doing the right thing,” stated Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “‘Don’t fund evil’ should also mean ‘Leave the U.S. Chamber.’”

“We are glad to see that Google has done the right thing by criticizing ALEC’s obstruction of climate action and by admitting that it was a ‘mistake’ for Google to support the right-wing group,” said Sam Jewler, communications officer of Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch, a project of Congress Watch. “Now Google should leave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, since, like ALEC, it is a large, influential, conservative group working to undermine serious efforts against climate change for the sake of corporate profits.”

The Chamber’s board of directors includes seven companies that heavily use or sell dirty energy, and it seems to take much of its direction from these companies, rather than from the many small businesses calling for action on climate change. A number of prominent companies have left the Chamber over its climate change positions, including Apple and several major energy companies. Last year, Skanska USA, an arm of Swedish construction giant Skanska, left the Chamber due to the Chamber’s involvement in opposing stronger standards for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

The Chamber, like ALEC, pushes for an expanded role for fossil fuels at the expense of investments in renewables and energy efficiency. Earlier this month, Public Citizen obtained agenda details and other documents associated with ALEC’s July meetings in Dallas, revealing that Google’s Senior Energy Policy Counsel, Michael Terrell, spoke before ALEC’s Energy Subcommittee on July 30. Terrell was on the agenda along with a discussion to oppose the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s climate change rules for existing power plants and a “Resolution in Support of Expanded LNG Exports.”

Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, sent a tweet to Terrell on Sept.11 asking for more detail about Google’s role on this panel. Terrell never responded to our request for more information.

“And there’s another important reason Google should leave the Chamber. The Chamber is the biggest corporate lobbying group in the country,” Gilbert added. “And it is a major vector for dark money in the aptly termed ‘dark money election’ of 2014.”

At Google’s 2014 shareholder meeting, Public Citizen helped organize a rally of 100 people calling for Google to make its political spending more transparent and to leave ALEC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Inside the meeting, when Jewler noted in Q&A how many tech companies have more transparent political spending policies than Google, Schmidt acknowledged the calls for greater political spending transparency, saying, “We need to be more transparent – is that right? We get it. We’ve heard that from a number of other shareholders, so let us come back with some ideas. We got a very clear set of messages from a number of shareholders about this transparency issue already.”

Jewler adds, “One idea for how Google can improve its transparency is to continue to withdraw from groups that take corporate money and turn it into anonymous lobbying and campaign expenditure dollars.”

First ALEC, next, the Chamber of Commerce. Google, back to you.