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.