Silicon Valley severs ties with ALEC…who’s next?

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This past Monday, Google announced its decision to culminate its relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a self-proclaimed “conservative think tank” of corporate lobbyists and state legislators who vote on industry-friendly “model bills” – proposals that often benefit corporations’ bottom lines at the expense of the public.

In just one week, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook have all severed ties with ALEC.  As Google Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, stated on the Diane Rehm Show, “The facts of climate change are not in question anymore.  Everyone understands climate change is occurring, and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place.  And so we should not be aligned with such people – they’re just, they’re just literally lying.”  And one after another, Facebook, Yahoo, YELP, Uber, and Lyft announced their intent of disjointing.

Here’s why this is interesting.   ALEC’s denial of climate crisis and encouragement of policies that inhibit action on carbon is old news.  The organization has operated with the same agenda for years.  So why are companies – huge, industry leaders – taking action now?  We seem to have have reached a tipping point – companies concerned about brand damage have concluded that it is not worth tainting their brand through continued engagement with ALEC.

Why did a company like Google support this organization in the first place?  And by the way, Google did not just join ALEC – it funded it.  Google (and Facebook) joined ALEC last October, paying some $20,000 a year in membership dues and $5,000 to be a member of ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force.  If Google sponsored a workshop or training during an ALEC conference, they agreed to pay $40-50 thousand per workshop. Plus conference fees.  Plus additional funding to ALEC or ALEC scholarships.  All of this funding is considered charitable contributions and can be denoted as a tax write-off. Author Norman Solomon attempts to explicate in a Huffington Post article that Google’s motivation for joining was to remain in a position of a power, “Google’s involvement in ALEC is consistent with the company’s mega-business model that relentlessly exploits rigorous data-mining of emails, online searches, and so much more”.

Google’s motivation for joining ALEC is irrelevant.  More importantly is why they left.

Perhaps Google’s decision is the result of a letter received by the company earlier this month pleading them to cut ties with ALEC.  “The public knows that the ALEC operation threatens our democracy…hundreds of thousands of Americans have signed petitions asking Google to end its ALEC membership…the public is asking Google to stop participating in this scheme…”

Or perhaps Silicon Valley came to its senses and realized that as tech giants relying on science for innovation, eventually the public would declare unacceptable, ties to a group that blatantly disregards science.

5 thoughts on “Silicon Valley severs ties with ALEC…who’s next?

  1. I think this is a case of the public pressure getting to Google, Facebook, etc. Which is FANTASTIC! Interestingly, as I write this (10:20 AM Thu EDT), ALEC and anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist are on Diane Rehm’s show to try to counter the negative press they received from the Google/FB exodus. My guess is they’re going to have some trouble doing so. A similar volley that won’t end well for the deniers is happening with the Koch Brothers, head of energy conglomerate Koch Industries and funders of climate change denial. Rolling Stone ran a major article on them in their most recent issue, “Inside The Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire” (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/inside-the-koch-brothers-toxic-empire-20140924). The Koch Brothers and their minions trashed the story and the journalists who wrote it. The journalists then almost immediately volleyed with a detailed rebuttal of the criticism of their approach. Excellent work on their part, excellent post here!

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    • Thanks greensportsblog ….and thanks for reading. I was perusing through some of ALEC’s attempts at defense. Lisa Nelson, ALEC’s chief executive, attributes Google’s actions to “public pressure from left leaning individuals and organizations who intentionally confuse free market policy perspectives for climate change denial”. The Wall Street Journal is defending ALEC, stating “ALEC takes no position on the substance of climate change”. Bill O’Reilly also defended ALEC on the O’Reilly Factor and attacked Google and the likes for terminating the relationship.

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  2. I have trouble believing these companies would have ever wanted to be associated with an organization as conservative as this one.

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  3. Nice post and I like the new formatting and picture.
    Our country has been built on economic progress but this is no longer appropriate in our third century as we see an increase in poverty, crime, poor health, and destruction of natural resources. I suspect the most “successful” companies in the next 50 years will be the ones that can attack these issues.

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