Google is a corporation. But D.C. liberals reasoned that the tech giant wasn't that kind of corporation. For the last eight years, they cheered as Google cozied up to the Obama family, to Democrats, and to policy wonks in an effort to "change the world from the bottom up."
After that whirlwind romance, it comes as something of a shock to discover that the multibillion dollar, multinational, and multiplatform corporation had mixed motives all along.
When Google was partnering with the federal government, offering free training to congressional offices, and bankrolling think tanks, they were quietly buying influence. Now a New York Times report exposes the implicit client-patron relationship, detailing the wrongful firing of Barry Lynn from the liberal D.C.-based think tank, New America.
A researcher who focuses on competition, Lynn wrote a paper praising the European Union's decision to fine Google $2.7 billion for violating antitrust regulations. The only problem? Google CEO Eric Schmidt chaired New America until 2016, Google pumped $21 million into the think tank, and Google doesn't much appreciate the criticism.
Angry that his dollars sponsored free inquiry and not free publicity, Schmidt reportedly emailed New America President Anne-Marie Slaughter. Slaughter summarily fired Lynn, telling the scholar he was "imperiling the institution as a whole."
Or, you know, his intellectual honesty was just bad business.
Suddenly out of a job, Lynn accused his former employer of bowing to its donors at the expense of truth. "Google is very aggressive in throwing its money around Washington and Brussels, and then pulling the strings," Lynn told the New York Times. "People are so afraid of Google now."
It's easy to see how liberals fell for Google. They're from California, they've got that sexy "don't be evil" slogan, and they sound cool when they talk about high minded progressive values. But the Silicon Valley company basically own all of the Internet and their stock price hovers around a staggering $950 a share. When push comes to shove, Google's bottom line eclipses all that buzzy talk about liberal ideas.
After all, they're a corporation. They exist to turn a profit. And they don't like their clients mouthing off. Looking at the New America heartbreak, liberals should take note.
As author Daniel Drezner points out, big moneyed donors like Google aren't going away. They've co-opted what he calls "the ideas industry" by giving an influx of cash to fiscally starved think tanks in exchange for "a more hands-on role in their engagement with ideas." Google pays and the beholden think tank churns out sympathetic ideas.
And it's not just think tanks. This sort of thing occurs across the spectrum from academia to the Oval Office. Apparently, Lynn just didn't realize that the hand that was feeding his organization expected it'd be censoring his research.
Others don't have to make his mistake. If Google's motto is "don't be evil," any cash-strapped group who takes their money should adopt the motto, "don't be naïve." At very minimum, firewalls are necessary to block the tech company from exercising undue influence.
Any group that really fosters honesty, in the long run, should break it off and leave behind the tech barons. They should get out of an abusive relationship with the corporation before it's too late.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.