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
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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