al Gore former vice president
Image via: CultofMac

Back in 2003 after years of unemployment, former Vice President Al Gore took a board of directors position with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). The stint came with a $50,000 annual pay day. Additional monies came from  stock options and in his tenure, Gore has done pretty well cashing out on $2 million in Apple stock options, according to the Daily Beast.

But now the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPRR), a conservative think tank, thinks Gore was able to leverage personal gain for his venture-capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and from investments in numerous clean technology businesses from his role as an Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) board of director.

Where did this idea come from? In 2009, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) left the Chamber of Commerce, protesting their stand opposing “cap and trade” legislation which was created to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Many would believe the company did this out of corporate principles but Tom Borelli, Free Enterprise Project Director at NCPPR, believe it’s from the Gore connection. From his aforementioned investments and partnership, Gore is positioned to see huge money from this, far exceeding his Apple income.

Borelli’s point of contention is that the “cap and trade” helps Gore, not Apple. He argues, “The question is why Apple is applying pressure on an issue that it has no business interest in.”

The answer? “Apple doesn’t have a financial interest in climate-change regulations, but Al Gore does.”

Is Apple really like to resign from the chamber because of one board of director and his personal interests? Probably not.

Borelli’s grumblings came to public light in February. At Apple’s annual meeting, he presented a resolution to shareholders (known as Proposal No. 4), asking them to request a “conflict of interest report” from the company over a policy “developed to personally benefit a board member.”

He noted in a “supporting statement” to his resolution that, “Shareholders have a right to know if Apple’s involvement in greenhouse gas regulations is being driven by Gore’s personal interests.”

What’s Apple’s take on Borelli’s accusations? The company has said, it “resigned its membership because the Chamber’s position on climate change differed so sharply with the company’s.” Apple also pointed out that by leaving the chamber, it really hasn’t affected its business.

In 2011, it earned profits of $26 billion as compared to 2009’s $8 billion in 2009, the year it dissolved its connection with the chamber.

For Borelli, he is fighting the good fight because of transparency and accountability.

Fast forward to mid-March and you have to ask, how does this story end?

The proposal failed after obtaining an extremely small shareholder vote.

Borelli still believes in the proposal and said, “We got 1.6 percent of the vote, which is a very low number. But it doesn’t mean we aren’t right. We are. When a company makes money, no one cares about conflicts of interest.”

And Apple’s final response? In a statement the company said, “The Company has a long-standing commitment to environmental responsibility. The decision to quit the Chamber was not driven by any conflict of interest or undue influence by any member of the Board. The Company resigned its membership because the Chamber’s position on climate change differed so sharply with the Company’s.”