AOL is ending its relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council, National Journal has learned.
The Web company decided “weeks ago” not to renew its membership with ALEC, a company official confirmed Monday. The departure makes AOL the latest in a remarkable wave of tech giants to recently separate from the conservative nonprofit.
It was not immediately clear why AOL chose to divorce itself from ALEC, a coalition of state legislators and corporations that works to develop template legislation to introduce in statehouses around the country.
The decision follows on the heels of a litany of other powerful Silicon Valley firms choosing to bolt from the group amid sharp scrutiny from left-leaning activists condemning any affiliation with ALEC due largely to the group’s opposition to environmental regulations.
In the space of two weeks in September, Google, Yahoo, and Yelp announced they had already left or were in the process of leaving ALEC, an exodus that began when Google Chairman Eric Schmidt charged that the group was “just literally lying” about climate change. Facebook also said it was “not likely” to renew its membership with ALEC next year.
Shortly after, Occidental Petroleum, the fourth-largest oil and natural-gas company in the U.S., also said it would separate from ALEC.
And just last week, SAP, a German-based software company with regional offices in the U.S., announced it would “immediately disassociate itself from ALEC.” A company representative for SAP cited ALEC’s conservative stance on climate change as well as its historic positions on gun control and voter rights. Earlier in the year, Microsoft, too, said it would leave ALEC.
Environmental organizations and public-interest groups have long accused ALEC of denying climate change, a charge ALEC denies. But ALEC, a coalition of conservative state legislators and corporations, sponsors model legislation that runs counter to the scientific consensus on climate change.
ALEC’s critics quickly cheered AOL’s decision.
“This further shows more companies don’t want to be in bed with ALEC anymore, whether it’s regarding ALEC’s denial of climate science, opposition to net neutrality, or the fact that ALEC is facing an IRS complaint charging the organization with tax fraud,” said Jay Riestenberg, research analyst with Common Cause, a progressive group that opposes ALEC.
ALEC did not immediately return a request for comment.
AOL’s departure leaves eBay and Expedia.com as the two remaining high-profile tech companies that are being targeted by anti-ALEC activists. Expedia has indicated it will remain with the group, while eBay has recently signaled it will review its ALEC membership.
ALEC has witnessed a torrent of high-profile departures in the past. In 2012, a collection of major corporations, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Kraft left the organization following public outcry over the group’s then-sponsorship of controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws, which came under heavy scrutiny during the Trayvon Martin case. The organization no longer works on legislation related to firearms.