Google sought to silence politicians while seeking tax breaks

blog North Carolina paper offers behind-the-scenes machinations of a deal that will lead to Google building a data center in the state.

Google, whose informal motto is "Do No Evil," tried to browbeat lawmakers in North Carolina into silence while the company sought millions in tax breaks, according to a newspaper in that state.

The Charlotte Observer of Charlotte, N.C., has written an article detailing the behind-the-scenes machinations of a deal that will lead to Google building a data center in North Carolina.

Under the deal, Google will invest around $600 million and employ 200 people in a data facility in Lenoir, N.C.

Additionally, Google will get tax breaks worth around $89 million over the next 30 years, and the breaks could top $100 million. Tax breaks actually are not that unusual. Governments often provide subsidies and tax breaks to attract employers (although the size of the Google presence compared to the tax breaks seems a little on the high side.).

The real interesting part, however, is the effete disdain Google seems to have displayed in negotiations. Google executive Rhett Weiss was unhappy that the legislature wanted an estimate of how large the tax breaks would be and threatened to pull the project after a few minor word changes in a draft of the legislation, according to memos published by the paper and state officials.

"This legislation has remained cursed with unfortunate and petty dickering from the legislative drafting side--mainly refusing to reinsert better word choice," Weiss wrote in a June 13 e-mail message. "Without the legislation being passed with its correct substance, our project will not proceed in North Carolina."

Google also insisted that state officials, including some elected ones, sign nondisclosure agreements and not state who the beneficiary of the tax breaks would be. (Some refused, but others signed.). Weiss stated in another memo that the project could be cancelled if anyone involved "mentions the company's interest in the bill, North Carolina, or the project itself."

When the paper broke the news about the pending deal, Google blamed state officials.

"I sort of had to work in the dark," said Sen. Jim Jacumin, a Republican who represents Caldwell County. "That bothered me. They need to respect the laws of the land, even if they're business."

Google did not respond to the Observer for comment.

The politicians in North Carolina should get a sister city in China. They seem to have better luck in China in getting their way.

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About the author

    Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.

     

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