Northrop Grumman Cuts Ties With ALEC

The defense contractor’s departure from the conservative group follows an exodus of tech companies late last year.

National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
Jan. 28, 2015, 12:27 p.m.

Be­hemoth de­fense con­tract­or Northrop Grum­man is the latest blue-chip cor­por­a­tion to end its af­fil­i­ation with the Amer­ic­an Le­gis­lat­ive Ex­change Coun­cil, a con­ser­vat­ive group that has en­dured the de­par­ture of sev­er­al prom­in­ent tech com­pan­ies in re­cent months, Na­tion­al Journ­al has learned.

Grum­man of­fi­cially ended its ALEC mem­ber­ship in Decem­ber, ac­cord­ing to a com­pany let­ter ob­tained by the Con­greg­a­tion of Sis­ters of St. Ag­nes. The Cath­ol­ic non­profit for wo­men is a Grum­man share­hold­er and filed a res­ol­u­tion in Decem­ber ask­ing Northrop to re­view its lob­by­ing af­fil­i­ations, a re­view that it said promp­ted the with­draw­al.

“As a ma­jor de­fense con­tract­or, it is sig­ni­fic­ant that the com­pany fol­low the lead of many ma­jor cor­por­a­tions that have left ALEC in re­cent months,” said Sis­ter Sally Ann Brick­ner.

A spokes­man for Northrop Grum­man re­fused to com­ment on the de­par­ture from ALEC. But ALEC sug­ges­ted the de­fense gi­ant did not fit in with the group’s free-mar­ket pri­or­it­ies. 

“Northrop Grum­man was a mem­ber of ALEC for a year and a half, and they nev­er really found a home among the task forces, and the re­la­tion­ship ran its course,” an ALEC spokes­wo­man said in a state­ment. “Like any oth­er mem­ber­ship group, mem­ber­ship in ALEC ebbs and flows, and in 2014 we gained far more private-sec­tor mem­bers than we lost.”

Left-lean­ing groups have for years picked fights with ALEC over its views on cli­mate change and oth­er policy mat­ters and have ag­gress­ively lob­bied its cor­por­ate mem­ber­ship to di­vest from the non­profit.

“Northrop Grum­man’s de­cision to leave ALEC shows that in­di­vidu­als and groups like the Con­greg­a­tion of Sis­ters of St. Ag­nes can use their share­hold­er rights to bring about pos­it­ive change and trans­par­ency in large cor­por­a­tions,” said Jay Riesten­berg, a re­search ana­lyst with Com­mon Cause, a pro­gress­ive ad­vocacy group that op­poses ALEC.

A spate of tech com­pan­ies bolted from ALEC in re­cent months, in part be­cause of the group’s con­tro­ver­sial views on cli­mate change. Google Chair­man Eric Schmidt began the ex­odus by call­ing out ALEC for “just lit­er­ally ly­ing” about glob­al warm­ing, a salvo that was fol­lowed by an an­nounce­ment that the search en­gine was leav­ing the non­profit.

Sev­er­al oth­er tech com­pan­ies quickly began pub­licly dis­tan­cing them­selves from ALEC, in­clud­ing Yelp, Ya­hoo, Face­book and, most re­cently, eBay. Oc­ci­dent­al Pet­ro­leum, the fourth largest pro­du­cer of oil and nat­ur­al gas in the U.S., also ended its re­la­tion­ship with ALEC last year.

ALEC is a con­ser­vat­ive co­ali­tion that brings state le­gis­lat­ors and cor­por­a­tions to­geth­er to craft mod­el le­gis­la­tion that is in­tro­duced in le­gis­latures around the coun­try. The group last suffered a wave of de­par­tures in 2012, as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Coca-Cola, Pep­siCo, and Kraft left the or­gan­iz­a­tion amid pub­lic out­cry over the group’s then-spon­sor­ship of con­tro­ver­sial “Stand Your Ground” gun laws. The or­gan­iz­a­tion says it no longer works on le­gis­la­tion re­lated to fire­arms.

Com­mon Cause and oth­er anti-ALEC groups have sug­ges­ted that tele­com com­pan­ies were likely to be their tar­gets from the con­ser­vat­ive group in 2015.

Vir­gin­ia-based Grum­man em­ploys tens of thou­sands of people around the world and rakes in more than $25 bil­lion in an­nu­al rev­en­ue.

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