The National Center for Public Policy Research is accusing former Vice President Al Gore of a conflict of interest concerning Apple’s plan to build a fuel cell power generator for its North Carolina data center. Speaking for the group, Tom Borelli, Ph.D., director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project, said that Al Gore’s involvement on the board of a venture capitalist firm backing Bloom Energy, the company building the fuel cell generator, should be raising red flags for Apple’s shareholders.
The group, which regularly campaigns for conservative issues, including pro-fossil fuel policies and anti-green energy efforts, pink slime, voter ID requirements, protesting the Occupy movement, and most especially complaining about Al Gore and his role as a board member of Apple Inc., said that green energy companies are failing and that Apple shouldn’t be bailing out Al Gore’s failed investments.
“Apple buying technology from Bloom Energy, where Gore has a financial stake, is a clear conflict of interest. Shareholders must question why Apple is choosing to pay a premium for alternative energy when there are many sources of cheaper energy available in North Carolina, such as coal,” said Tom Borelli, Ph.D., director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project.
In reality, it’s only a conflict of interest if Mr. Gore hid his involvement with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the legendary venture capitalist group that backed companies that went on to become tech giants, including Amazon, Google, Sun, Genetech, Intel, and a host of others. In that Mr. Gore’s position on the board of the VC firm is well and publicly known, it’s unclear what the basis of Dr. Borelli’s accusation is.
This isn’t the first time Dr. Borelli and his institute have tried to raise the hue and cry about Al Gore sitting on Apple’s board. At the 2012 shareholder meeting, Dr. Borelli presented Shareholder Proposal 3, which was an attempt to force Mr. Gore to admit that he has a conflict of interest relating to Apple having pulled out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to protest that organization’s lobbying against curbing greenhouse emissions.
That proposal was voted for by 1.9 percent of Apple’s shareholders. In its press release, the National Center for Public Policy Research said it failed because it was opposed by Apple’s management, but we were there when it was proposed.
At that time, it got precisely one shareholder’s personal clap of support, and that person was Shelton Ehrlich, who infamously claimed that the ice caps aren’t melting in his own attacks on Al Gore as an Apple board member (hint: the ice caps are melting).
Other issues opposed by Apple’s management typically get low double digit votes. One such measure imposing majority vote requirements for Apple’s board members, was long opposed by Apple’s management only to be voted in with 80.5 percent of of the vote this year (it had failed in prior years).
In any event, the drum beat from Dr. Borelli and the National Center for Public Policy Research has little basis in fact. It got enough attention from the financial press, however, that we felt it should be put into proper context.
Mr. Gore enjoys the support of CEO Tim Cook and Apple’s shareholders. Indeed, the entire management team of Apple enjoys the support of Apple’s shareholders. This is due largely on the fact that the company is making money hand over fist, and charges that Apple is working hard to preserve investments made by Al Gore or Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers at the expense of shareholders is not one that is likely to find any traction among those shareholders.
There is precisely one party making an issue out of this, and that’s Dr. Borelli and his National Center for Public Policy Research. In the context of the group’s broader campaign against green energy and just about anything that hints at being a progressive cause should put that effort into perspective.
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