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Google Faces Environmentalist Wrath Over Fundraiser For James Inhofe, Climate Change Denier

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Volunteers from Greenpeace and Forecast The Facts protest outside Google headquarters in Washington D.C. on Thursday, July 11, 2013. | Lucia Graves

WASHINGTON -- Chanting "Google, don't fund evil!" and hoisting colorful signs, dozens of environmentalists gathered outside of Google’s Washington headquarters to protest a fundraiser held Thursday for one of Congress' most notorious climate change deniers, James Inhofe.

The Oklahoma Republican has repeatedly dismissed climate change as a "hoax" on the Senate floor, and takes pride in his role as one of the country's most outspoken climate change deniers.

"Google's support for Sen. Inhofe is an affront to every one of the company's stated principles," said Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts. The climate change awareness group had crafted an earlier petition calling on Google CEO Larry Page to cancel the fundraiser.

Google held the Thursday fundraiser at its D.C. headquarters -- a $250 to $2,500 lunch -- to benefit Inhofe as well as the national Republican Senatorial Committee.

Google has spent years building a reputation as a company that cares about the environment, touting investments in clean energy, solar and wind projects and writing on its website that it strives to build a "better web that is better for the environment."

One such project is a set of data centers in Oklahoma powered entirely by wind energy. Google has invested $700 million in two such data centers in the state, according to its website.

"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 in a statement. "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 campaign contributions tend to be split about evenly between Democrats and Republicans. In June, The Washington Post revealed that Google was the biggest single donor to the annual dinner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank that's pushed back against the science of global warming.

Jesse Coleman, a research assistant with Greenpeace who attended Thursday's protest, said Google is trying to have it both ways.

"They get put into this liberal corporation box but really they're as mercenary as anyone and they want to have as much power to accomplish what they want to accomplish as possible," Coleman said. "They don't want to be seen on the Hill as solely a liberal organization. That's the reason they're willing to put their neck out for James Inhofe."

The protesters were not allowed inside Google's headquarters and dispersed at 1:15 p.m., leaving a stack of petitions signed by thousands of environmentalists at the door.

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