There’s been a sea change in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the right-wing lobbying group that has crafted wide-ranging legislation proposed and enacted by conservative legislatures across the country.
AOL on Monday became the latest tech giant to leave the group’s membership, a coalition of legislators and corporations that craft template legislation proposed in state houses as a way for lawmakers to work around federal laws and policies. AOL had been among the country’s corporate leaders in pushing for open Internet laws, as ALEC in recent years has fought against those policies.
AOL officials had served on ALEC’s communications and technology task force and its tax and fiscal policy task force.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt announced in September that the company was severing ties with ALEC, accusing the right-wing coalition of “lying” about climate change.
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AOL’s departure from ALEC comes as the nation prepares for an onslaught of conservative legislation sure to come in the wake of GOP gains across much of the country. AOL cut ties with ALEC thanks in large part to an online organizing group, known as Common Cause, collecting more than 21,000 signatures imploring the company to distance itself from ALEC, which has become known for its secrecy.
“The facts of climate change are not in question anymore,” Schmidt of Google told National Public Radio. “Everyone understands climate change is occurring, and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people—they’re just, they’re just literally lying.”
Since Google’s move, a handful of corporations have left ALEC, including Yahoo!, Yelp, and Occidental Petroleum, the fourth-largest oil and natural gas company in the United States.
But climate change isn’t the only issue on which ALEC has drawn widespread criticism. The group is behind some of the most conservative legislation in the country, including Wisconsin’s union-busting legislation, Florida’s “stand your ground” law and many states’ voter ID laws, designed to suppress turnout among reliably Democratic constituencies.
ALEC, despite its claims to the contrary, isn’t agnostic when it comes to abortion. Though it hasn’t explicitly taken a stance on the issue, ALEC has worked closely with Americans United for Life (AUL), a group that is essentially a smaller, anti-choice version of ALEC.
AUL in August 2010 participated in ALEC’s 37th annual meeting, offering anti-choice bills as a method to diminish the success of the Affordable Care Act. Many state lawmakers have introduced and passed the model legislation crafted at that meeting, particularly laws banning or restricting abortion coverage in insurance plans.
This isn’t the first time ALEC has faced backlash over its legislation. ALEC’s “stand your ground” law played a major role in the discourse around the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. In the wake of his killer’s trial, several companies, including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and the Gates Foundation, dropped their affiliations with the group.