Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Oct. 16, 17 or 18
For example, days after progressive groups, led by the Teachers union, cited the American Legislative Exchange Council’s secretive, extremist opposition to Internet neutrality, clean energy and labor rights, and wrote Google executives to ask them dump its membership in ALEC, Google quit the group, which is backed by the Koch brothers.
Co-signers of the letter included the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the Alliance for Retired Americans, the Communications Workers, Good Jobs First, the Service Employees, the Steelworkers, the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and Working America.
In an interview on National Public Radio’s “Diane Rehm Show,” Google chairman Eric Schmidt said his company was dropping its ALEC membership over the group’s environmental policies, commenting, “[Google] has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts. What a shock! And the facts of climate change are not in question. The people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. They’re just literally lying.”
ALEC is notorious for its Radical Right agenda, from anti-worker laws to the “Stand Your Ground” measure passed by the GOP-run Florida legislature. That law let a neighborhood watch “volunteer” in 2012 go free after fatally shooting unarmed African-American teen Trayvon Martin. The incident sparked nationwide protests and was cited by dozens of companies who left ALEC.
ALEC, based in Alexandria, Va., maintains a library of “model” state legislation and connects businesses with a network of lawmakers – sort of acting as a pimp for elected officials selling their services. But offering corporate members a voice in policymaking when that means extremist-conservative policies have caused labor unions, civic organizations, nonprofits and shareholder-activist groups to pressure companies – who pay thousands for ALEC membership – to quit.
Google’s departure came after Microsoft left ALEC in July, and it was followed by Facebook, YELP, Yahoo, Uber and Lyft. Also, the American Sustainable Business Council, which says it represents more than 200,000 businesses in the United States, issued a statement praising companies who’ve canceled their ALEC memberships “over ALEC’s obstruction of America’s transition to a renewable energy economy,” said David Levine, co-founder and CEO of the business group.
The impact on ALEC as a result of the desertion of large corporations could weaken it as an entity that sponsors and passes destructive legislation, and it could snowball to encourage other responsible businesses to flee the Right-wing consortium. Already, Walden Asset Management, which manages $3 billion in investor money, has asked dozens of companies – including Comcast, eBay, Exxon-Mobil and UPS – to reassess their involvement with ALEC, according to Senior Vice President Tim Smith, who said, “We think that the company’s reputation is hurt by the relationship. We think that they’re supporting a very, very partisan political agenda and it is actually an unwise use of shareholder money.”
Almost 100 companies have left ALEC since 2011, when the Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause and other groups focused on campaign finance reform, environmental issues, and labor rights all started to pressure companies to leave ALEC.
Jay Riestenberg, a Common Cause policy analyst, said, “These companies have decided it’s just not worth it anymore. I think with the departure of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Yelp … people aren’t going to take ALEC seriously.”
Activists are now moving to pressure eBay and AOL to drop their involvement with ALEC.
MoveOn.org’s Marisol Garcia, whose effort, “AOL: If you’re in ALEC, you’ve got fail,” is online, said, “We need to tell AOL that, like dial-up Internet users in an age of broadband, continuing their ALEC membership means they’ll only fall further behind.”
She added, “Sign our petition and tell AOL to take a stand against ALEC’s dirty politicians and backroom deals.”
[PICTURED: Graphic from "Big Education Ape (A Parent Engaged)."]