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Companies that make bold climate pledges keep donating to politicians with dismal environmental records

Does an aggressive corporate climate policy mean that much if the company doesn’t support those same policies through its political donations?

Companies that make bold climate pledges keep donating to politicians with dismal environmental records
[Photo: Łukasz Łada/Unsplash, Patric Tomasso/Unsplash]
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Microsoft has pledged to become carbon negative by 2030 and remove all the carbon emissions it has ever produced as a company by 2050. But the company has given about 14% more in campaign contributions to political candidates who have a record of climate obstruction than to those with climate-friendly policies.

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Those donations—uncovered in a new Bloomberg report—include more than $20,000 from Microsoft to Republican Minority Leader Representative Kevin McCarthy, who, according to the nonprofit League of Conservation Voters, made 62 anti-environment votes and only two that were in favor of the environment in 2018 and 2019 combined. The League of Conservation Voters gives politicians across the U.S. a rating based on how they vote on environmental legislation, with a higher score representing a more climate-friendly candidate. McCarthy has an LCV score of 3%.

Microsoft isn’t the only company that has donated more to politicians who stymie climate legislation. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, gave about 9% more of its political contributions to candidates with LCV scores lower than 10% than to those with scores 90% or higher. ExxonMobile gave 68% of its $961,000 in political spending to candidates and PACs with reputations as climate obstructionists, and only 8% to climate-friendly candidates.

Bloomberg Green looked at the campaign contributions of 106 companies made between the 2018 midterm election and this year’s October 20 filing deadline. “For every dollar these corporations gave to one of the most climate-friendly members of Congress during this election cycle, they gave $1.84—nearly twice as much—to an ardent obstructionist of proactive climate policy,” Bloomberg reports.

Of the 106 companies Bloomberg analyzed, all but 19 gave, via their political arms, a “disproportionate share” of campaign donations to candidates with “dismal” climate records. Of the $68 million given by these companies to incumbent House and Senate members’ campaigns and leadership PACs since the 2018 midterms, one-third went to candidates with a lifetime LCV score of 5% or lower, and nearly half to candidates with scores of 10% or lower.

This isn’t the first time companies have been called out for funding anti-climate-change efforts while still publicly calling for environmental action. In 2019, a Guardian report found that Google made “substantial” contributions to more than a dozen organizations that lobby against action on climate change.

Climate change is increasingly becoming a concern for American voters, and experts say we’re at a climate turning point, with COVID-19 recovery and the outcome of the 2020 election crucial to determining our climate future, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and preventing even more disastrous climate consequences. Just as the Business Roundtable’s 2019 pledge toward an economy that served all Americans failed to translate into any meaningful action, this Bloomberg report is an example of how businesses’ actions often run counter to their environmental claims.