Lisa Jackson

Strange bedfellows: Apple and the far right

May 31, 2013: 7:51 AM ET

Tea Party Senators and a conservative newspaper came -- briefly -- to Apple's defense.

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 7.36.42 AMFORTUNE -- Steve Jobs wasn't given to making political statements, but he did send signals: He dated Joan Baez, he toasted Barack Obama and, according to Walter Isaacson's biography, he chewed out Rupert Murdoch privately for letting Fox News become "an incredibly destructive force in our society."

But when Tim Cook testified before a Senate subcommittee about Apple's (AAPL) taxes, it was a Democrat, Carl Levin, who gave Jobs' successor the hardest time, and two Republicans elected with Tea Party support -- Ron Johnson and Rand Paul -- who came to his defense. ("I'm offended by the tone of these hearings," said Sen. Paul, "Apple has done more to enrich people's lives than politicians will ever do.")

Perhaps Apple's most surprising support after the hearing came from the Washington Examiner, a free daily newspaper owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschultz and described by Politico as "a megaphone for [Anschutz's] right-wing views on taxes, national security and President Barack Obama." Under the headline "Apple becomes latest target of the Beltway Shakedown" columnist Tim Carney wrote:

"The grilling of Apple is best understood as a shakedown by politicians upset with Apple for not playing the Washington game that yields contributions, power, and personal wealth for congressmen and their aides.

"Apple doesn't have a political action committee to fund incumbents' re-elections. Apple doesn't hire many congressional staff or any former congressmen as lobbyists. Apple mostly minds its own business -- and how does that help the political class?"

In this context, the appointment this week of former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson as Apple's vice president for environmental initiatives could have a double effect. She's a Beltway insider who could give the company access to the corridors of power. And as a long-time scourge of conservative columnists who saw her as "tyrant" and an "especially abusive and willful regulator" (to quote the Wall Street Journal), she could shake loose Apple's support from the right.

"Her EPA specialty was imposing rules regardless of costs, while stretching 'benefits' with doughy concepts such as economic redistribution and alleviating racial grievances," wrote the Journal's Joseph Rago in Thursday's paper. "Then again, with roughly $145 billion of cash on hand, Apple may be the only U.S. company rich enough to afford Ms. Jackson."

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