AOL has become the latest corporate giant to dump the Koch brothers by cutting ties with ALEC.
According to a statement by Common Cause,
Online giant AOL Inc, has decided to end its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Common Cause has learned; a company official confirmed the move today and said the decision was made “a number of weeks ago.”
AOL becomes the latest in a series of major tech companies to cut ties with the secretive corporate lobbying group. Microsoft announced its departure in August. A month later, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt declared on a nationally-broadcast radio program that ALEC was “literally lying” about climate change and that Google’s funding for the organization was a “mistake.” Following Google’s lead, Facebook, Yelp, Yahoo, International Paper, Occidental Petroleum, News Corp, Overstock.com, and SAP have all confirmed that they have left or are planning to leave ALEC.
More than 21,000 Common Cause activists have signed a petition asking AOL to leave ALEC. AOL previously was a member of ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force and Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. While AOL has been a corporate leader in fighting for Open Internet protections, ALEC has lobbied against those policies.
ALEC, founded in the 1970s, connects corporate lobbyists and executives with hundreds of state legislators across the country. The group entertains the lawmakers at annual seminars where it and its corporate members pick up the tab for travel and hotel expenses and vote as equals with the elected officials on “model” bills often drafted by lobbyists. Legislators typically introduce that legislation without acknowledging its origins in ALEC.
Common Cause is pursuing a tax “whistleblower” complaint against ALEC with the Internal Revenue Service, accusing the organization of masquerading as a charity while functioning as a corporate lobby. ALEC’s non-profit tax status allows its corporate supporters to deduct their contributions to the organization on their corporate tax returns, in effect providing a tax subsidy for ALEC’s lobbying.
Tech companies especially are waking up and realizing that it is bad news to be found in the ALEC bed with the Koch brothers. Google started the domino effect among tech companies. Once Google bailed on ALEC, there has been a full blown exodus away from the Koch backed organization.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt accused ALEC of literally lying about climate change. Google’s departure was followed by Yelp, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Facebook said that it was unlikely that it will renew its ALEC membership. International Paper and Occidental Petroleum have also cut ties with ALEC. In a statement, Occidental said that they were leaving ALEC because they didn’t want to be associated with the organization’s positions on climate change and EPA regulation.
Unless a business solely courts conservatives, the denial of the science supporting climate change is an increasing bad public position to be in. Corporate giants are leaving ALEC because the Koch backed group is becoming toxic. Any association with ALEC is a risk to the bottom line.
The Koch brothers may have bought themselves a Senate majority, but their agenda remains so unpopular that major corporations are running away from them. The Kochs may have won a midterm battle, but they are still losing the overall war.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association