Google faces environmentalists’ ire over Inhofe fundraiser

Google has spent years building a reputation as a company that cares about the environment, investing in solar energy, climate research, and wind farms.

One of those wind farms is in Oklahoma, which helps explain why the company is holding a fundraiser in Washington for Jim Inhofe (R), perhaps the Senate's most ardent skeptic of climate change. But environmentalists aren't pleased; the group Forecast the Facts, along with Greenpeace, is protesting outside Google's Washington headquarters during Thursday's event. The protest will be broadcast live here:

The lunch will raise contributions of $250 to $2,500 for Inhofe.

"It's embarrassing that a company that prides itself on innovation and technology is associating itself with the extreme views of Senator Inhofe, who is unabashedly dismissive of climate science," said Jeff Gohringer of the League of Conservation Voters.

The company made a 20-year deal with a wind farm in Oklahoma to power data centers in the state and has invested $700 million in the state. Google is now planning a second data center there.

"We regularly host fundraisers for candidates, on both sides of the aisle, but that doesn't mean we endorse all of their positions," a Google spokesperson said. "And while we disagree on climate change policy, we share an interest with Senator Inhofe in the employees and data center we have in Oklahoma."

Google's corporate campaign contributions tend to be about evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. In recent months the company has held fundraisers at its D.C. headquarters for Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Barrasso (R-Wy.). Google was also the single largest donor to an annual fundraising dinner held last month by the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank with backing from the energy industry that has pushed back against environmentalists' concerns about global warming.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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Rachel Weiner · July 11, 2013