In answers to written congressional questions released recently, Google CEO Sundar Pichai confirmed that his company gave money to the National Review Institute, the policy arm of establishment conservative magazine National Review.
The Google CEO’s confirmation was marred by a contradiction in the alleged date of the donation. Pichai said it was in 2018, but the National Review Institute’s website says it received a Google sponsorship in 2017.
This calls into question Google’s entire commitment to transparency in its political spending. The company’s transparency page currently lists the National Review Institute among the recipients of Google funds under “trade associations and membership organizations.”
But according to internet archives, Google did not update its transparency page to include the National Review Institute until late January of this year. An archive from January 22 of this year shows that the NRI still had not been added to the transparency page — over a year after the NRI’s website says they received a Google sponsorship.
The fact that Google only updated its transparency page after it received questions from journalists and Congress over its contributions to NRI raises an important question: what other contributions to political organizations has Google failed to disclose?
Thanks to leakers, we know that Google has spent considerable resources trying to influence establishment conservatives in D.C. in an attempt to fend off Republican regulation amid accusations of political bias and censorship (the latter, in fact, is more than just an accusation — Google’s own research admits it has undergone a “shift towards censorship.”)
Reporters at the left-leaning Wired magazine discovered that Google funneled money to a range of establishment conservative groups including the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). A member of the latter group subsequently published an article in National Review arguing against the use of antitrust laws to break up Google.
But that’s just the donations that we know of. Absent further leaks, and taking into account Google’s failure to disclose its contribution to NRI until pressed by Congress, we can’t say for sure what other members of the D.C. conservative think-tankocracy are recipients of Google funding.
It’s unclear why Google would conceal its donation to NRI for so long. Its donations to AEI and CEI appeared on its transparency page much earlier. Then again, AEI and CEI are not overtly linked to an allegedly independent political magazine like National Review. There’s not much point trying to influence a magazine if everyone knows it’s been influenced.
Another explanation might be a feared backlash from Google’s own employees. Breitbart News previously reported a leaker’s account of how a Google employee was reported to human resources for sharing a National Review article alleging it contained “hate speech” towards transgender people. Another leak reported by Breitbart revealed an internal backlash from leftist Googlers over the company’s sponsorship of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2017.
Regardless of their reasons, Google’s failure to disclose the NRI contribution earlier will leave the public wondering about the integrity of the political arguments they hear on TV and read in magazines. Every argument made by an establishment conservative to defend the tech giant from regulation. Are such arguments truly the result of independent thought and conservative values? Or are they motivated by a Silicon Valley paymaster?