By Rebekah Wilce on August 08, 2012

More companies have announced they are cutting ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) even as some corporations, like eBay, continue to stand firm.

Amgen, a $15.3 billion pharmaceutical company based in California, announced its determination not to renew its membership on August 3 in response to a letter from a group of concerned shareholders and advocates led by Walden Asset Management and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, has dropped its seat on ALEC's corporate board, according to the agenda from ALEC's 2012 annual meeting. Even commodities and energy trading corporation Louis Dreyfus confirmed to CMD that it had decided not to fund ALEC this year.

Now eBay is being asked to follow suit.

eBay's Involvement with ALEC

eBay HeadquartersWhen you're online bidding on a snazzy new toaster or that fab vintage dress, you might not be thinking overly much about "net neutrality" or broadband access for the masses. But representatives of the online auction company eBay go to meetings several times a year and vote to adopt "model" bills and resolutions on these and other issues that favor big business over consumers in the online world.

eBay is a member of ALEC's Telecommunication and Information Technology Task Force (now renamed the "Communications and Technology Task Force"). Before it was disbanded under duress in 2012, eBay was even a member of ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which adopted such controversial "model" bills as voter ID, Arizona's SB 1070 anti-immigrant law and Florida-style "Stand Your Ground" laws.

What is eBay's agenda at ALEC?

Weighing in with Big Telecom on Our Rights Online

In ALEC's Communications and Technology Task Force, eBay works with telecommunications giants like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter, and Comcast, and right-wing policy groups like Americans for Tax Reform, the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation to produce "model legislation" that is then introduced in state legislatures across the land.

This Task Force has adopted numerous resolutions that favor big business over consumers in arena of telecom and IT. For instance, the task force has passed resolutions against net neutrality and against the public utility model for the provision of broadband services, but they love federal stimulus money for broadband expansion as long as it lines the pockets of big corporations.

"Net neutrality means simply that all like Internet content must be treated alike and move at the same speed over the network. The owners of the Internet's wires cannot discriminate. This is the simple but brilliant 'end-to-end' design of the Internet that has made it such a powerful force for economic and social good," say professors Lawrence Lessig and Robert McChesney. Telecommunications and internet firms are fighting to put an end to net neutrality in order to create a two tier internet -- a superhighway for multinational corporations that pay for speed and a dirt road for average consumers. Moreover, according to the Huffington Post, ALEC has also been supportive of efforts to crush low-cost municipal broadband in city after city, because it doesn't want the public sector to compete with the private sector by offering high-quality, low cost services.

ALEC also has a slew of bills promoting the privatization and deregulation of the telecommunications industry and undermining state consumer protections such as rate setting and the provision of universal services.

Asking eBay to Dump ALEC

"I Want YOU to Dump ALEC"eBay has also been a member of the "Pawn Brokers Subcommittee" of ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force, but not much is known about the agenda of this subcommittee. Other members of the subcommittee have included the National Rifle Association, the American Bail Coalition, Cash America, the National Pawnbroker Association.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) asked eBay what particular "model" bills it supports at ALEC, but a spokesperson had no comment. ALEC considers many bills of interest to this industry, including an online sales tax bill that was the subject of hot debate at ALEC's 2011 annual meeting, as CMD has reported. eBay's membership and task force dues underwrite ALEC's agenda.

Corporations that have publicly cut ties to ALEC in recent weeks include General Motors, Walgreens, Best Buy, Hewlett-Packard, MillerCoors, John Deere, Dell, Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart, Amazon.com, Procter & Gamble, Mars, Wendy's, McDonald's, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola. The addition of Amgen and Louis Dreyfus brings the total to 32. Four non-profits -- Lumina Foundation for Education, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and the Gates Foundation -- and 56 state legislators have also cut ties with ALEC.

CMD, along with Color of Change, Common Cause, People for the American Way, Progress Now, and others are asking eBay to cut ties with ALEC. Credo Action, a project of Working Assets, is also calling on its supporters and customers to call eBay and urge the company to stop funding ALEC.

Rebekah Wilce

Rebekah Wilce is a reporter and researcher who directs CMD's Food Rights Network project.