AOL Becomes Latest Tech Giant to Flee From ALEC

Another tech company has decided to part ways with the controversial conservative group.

National Journal
Nov. 10, 2014, 11:32 a.m.

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.

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