Conservative Group ALEC Threatens Legal Action Against Telecom Critics

As corporate members continue to bolt, the controversial nonprofit is on a warpath to silence its critics.

A view of cellular communication towers on March 6, 2014 in Emeryville, California. The U.S. Labor Department is asking mobile phone providers to increase safety training for crews who perform work on cell tower sites in the United States. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more tower site workers died in 2013 than in the previous two years combined and four workers have died in the first weeks of 2014.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
April 10, 2015, 1 a.m.

Suffering from an ongoing exodus of prominent corporate sponsors, the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council is not only trying to silence critics who say the group denies climate change. It is also threatening legal action against those attacking its telecom policy.

Last month, attorneys representing ALEC sent a cease-and-desist letter to Credo Mobile, a progressive wireless carrier, asking it to stop making claims that it opposes the expansion of municipal broadband services.

“We demand that you cease making inaccurate statements regarding ALEC, and immediately remove all false or misleading material from the Working Assets and Credo Action or related websites and action pages within five business days,” the letter, dated March 5, reads. “Should you not do so, and/or continue to publish any defamatory statements, we will consider any and all necessary legal action to protect ALEC.”

ALEC contends that it does not oppose city broadband but only advocates that certain “steps” be required before a municipality can provide telecom services. Additionally, ALEC takes issue with Credo labeling it as an organization that lobbies state legislatures at all, arguing that it is merely a “think-tank for state-based public policy issues and potential solutions.”

ALEC made the letter available on its website this week shortly after The Washington Post reported that the group had sent separate cease-and-desist letters to Common Cause and the League of Conservation Voters. Those letters threatened legal action if the progressive groups did not immediately “remove all false or misleading material” that accused ALEC of not denying global warming.

Both Common Cause and the League of Conservation Voters issued responses indicating they have no plans to stop labeling ALEC a climate denier. It is unclear if Credo has issued a response of its own, and the carrier did not respond to a request for comment. ALEC also did not comment for this story.

ALEC’s quest to silence its critics comes as the organization continues to suffer through a months-long shedding of prominent corporate members, mostly in the tech sector. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt in part sparked the exodus when he publicly condemned ALEC for “just literally lying” about climate change and said the search giant would leave the organization.

Facebook, AOL, eBay, oil-and-gas giant BP, and others have since followed suit, though many did not explicitly link their departure to ALEC’s controversial climate views.

Most recently, T-Mobile, the nation’s fourth-largest carrier, announced this week it was divorcing itself from ALEC, though it also did not explain whether the separation was due to any specific policy differences.

ALEC, a coalition of corporations and thousands of mostly Republican state legislators, relies on funding from its business sponsors to function. The Arlington-based nonprofit has been derided by liberals for years as a “bill mill” for conservative ideas and has most recently drawn intense scrutiny for its backing of legislation that disputes that human activity is contributing to climate change—a view that runs counter to the overwhelming scientific consensus. ALEC adamantly rejects that is denies climate change.

The group witnessed an earlier wave of departures in 2012 for its then-backing of “Stand Your Ground Laws,” which came under intense scrutiny after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. ALEC survived the membership bleeding and has attempted to rebrand itself over the past year as a more transparent group that only offers model legislation related to its free-market economic agenda.

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