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Influential Think Tank Declines Big Tech Donations

The Heritage Foundation declined six-figure donations from Big Tech companies Facebook and Google in 2020, citing repeated censorship of conservative views

News website Axios obtained letters signed by Heritage Foundation‘s departing President Kay Coles James (pictured), addressed to the CEOs of both Facebook and Google in October 2020, explaining why Heritage felt compelled to decline the six-figure contributions from the companies.

“We cannot in good conscience take money from a company that repeatedly, and blatantly, suppresses conservative speech on your platforms,” reads the letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai

A similar statement is made in the letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Heritage declined $225,000 from Google, and returned $150,000 that came from Facebook.

The Heritage Foundation made several accusations against the companies in its letters, including: that Facebook suppressed their reach by blocking referral traffic; that Facebook targeted Heritage with third-party fact-checkers; and that Google twice censored Heritage’s YouTube videos.

The letter to Zuckerberg even addresses Facebook’s decision weeks prior to the 2020 election to suppress a news article from the New York Post exposing questionable behavior on the part of Hunter Biden and his father Joe Biden surrounding foreign business deals during Joe Biden’s Vice Presidency. (Twitter also engaged in the suppression of the story, and CEO Jack Dorsey offered a belated admission last week that it was a mistake). 

Despite attempts on the part of Heritage to cooperate with Facebook and Google to resolve these issues, Heritage says that all attempts have been met with shrugs and empty apologies.

The letters state that until policies and actions change at Facebook and Google, the foundation “will no longer be able to accept donations” from those companies.

The Heritage Foundation is one of America’s most influential conservative think tanks, founded in 1973. Its stated mission is to “formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

Heritage has received donations from Google and Facebook in years past. In one year, Heritage received $1.55 million from Google and $275,000 from Facebook. Total contributions from all sources that year amounted to over $87 million.

On the day these letters were made public, Representative Ken Buck (R-CO, pictured) announced he would also be declining any donations from Facebook, Google, or Amazon. Rep. Buck is the lead Republican on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, which investigates efforts by major corporations to control the market.

In 2020, Buck’s campaign received $5,000 from Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., and $2,500 from Amazon.

In a letter applauding Heritage’s decision to decline Big Tech donations, Buck (pictured) wrote:

Your principled decision to decline large donations is an important statement considering the corrupt political and financial power that Silicon Valley giants attempt to employ in Washington, D.C. Your letters to Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai explaining the decision to decline their donations show the strong ethical and moral beliefs that Heritage was founded upon and continues to embody.

The Heritage Foundation made the letters public on Wednesday, March 24. On Thursday, March 25, the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google appeared before a House subcommittee hearing to discuss their involvement in online misinformation and censorship.

Note: The photo of Kay Coles James is courtesy Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 3.0.


Caitlin Bassett

Caitlin Bassett is a Policy Analyst and Communications Liaison for the Center for Science & Culture and the Center on Wealth & Poverty. Her main areas of focus are in Big Tech and its impact on human freedom, as well as homelessness and mental illness. In her free time, she enjoys delving into Lewis and Tolkien, cosmology, and running around historical sites on the East Coast. She graduated from Liberty University in 2017 with her Bachelor’s in Politics and Policy.

Influential Think Tank Declines Big Tech Donations