Submitted by Rebekah Wilce on
Microsoft, the $86.8 billion-a-year technology company, is no longer a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and has stopped funding the group.
The company confirmed that "in 2014 Microsoft decided to no longer participate in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Communications and Technology Task Force, which had been our only previous involvement with ALEC. With this decision, we no longer contribute any dues to ALEC." The confirmation was sent by email to The Sustainability Group of Loring, Wolcott and Coolidge and Walden Asset Management, which had engaged Microsoft over its affiliation with ALEC.
Microsoft has left ALEC, but big technology companies Google, eBay, Facebook, and Yahoo reportedly still fund and remain engaged with ALEC.
The $25.7 billion-a-year pharmaceutical British and Swiss company AstraZeneca and the energy companies Ameren, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company (MEHC) -- now known as Berkshire Hathaway Energy -- PacifiCorp, NV Energy, Alliant Energy, and PG&E have also confirmed that they have cut ties to ALEC. This brings the number of corporations that have left the controversial group to at least 80, along with 19 non-profits, for a total of 99 private sector members that have publicly announced leaving ALEC. (Three of those corporations have subsequently returned to ALEC, and many of the non-profits listed by ALEC as "lapsed" in August 2013 share an ideological agenda with and noted their desire to return to ALEC.)
Companies' Involvement with ALEC
The Sustainability Group noted in a statement released in July that it believed Microsoft's "affiliation with ALEC, which is actively fighting policies that promote renewable energy, was incongruous. In addition, there were numerous other ALEC actions that conflicted directly with Microsoft’s values."
As a member of ALEC, Microsoft has gained access to and influence over state legislators from all 50 states and has underwritten ALEC's agenda to resist U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attempts to limit carbon dioxide pollution from coal plants at the state level, to penalize people who generate solar power on their rooftops, to restrict citizens' ability to vote for reportedly partisan reasons, and to push "Stand Your Ground" laws around the country.
As a member of ALEC's Communications and Technology Task Force, Microsoft has helped big telecom change state laws for corporate gain and has helped limit access to broadband, as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has reported.
The Sustainability Group said, "We commend Microsoft on its commitment to open dialogue with shareholders, and for making this important decision."
AstraZeneca has been a member of ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force as well as state corporate co-chair of Delaware. The company confirmed, in response to an April 2013 shareholder question, that it decided not to renew its membership in ALEC's task force.
As a member of ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force, AstraZeneca has funded ALEC's agenda to oppose health insurance reforms, eliminate mandated benefits intended to ensure minimal care for American workers, to cap damages for pain and suffering and for the loss of companionship of a loved one who is killed due to medical negligence or incompetence, to amend Medicaid to replace the current funding program -- in which the federal government matches a percentage of state costs -- with block grants, and to erode the safety net for older Americans or Americans living in poverty.
Ameren has a long history of involvement with ALEC, having sponsored ALEC's 1998 annual meeting. More recently, it sponsored "Missouri Night" at Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans during the 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting.
An Ameren spokesperson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the company is not a member of ALEC in April 2014.
Berkshire Hathaway Energy
Greenpeace sent letters to nine utility companies that have supported ALEC's anti-science environmental attack campaign in early 2014, asking them to cut ties. The environmental activist organization confirmed in May that MidAmerian Energy Holdings Company, PacifiCorp, NV Energy, Alliant Energy, PG&E, and Ameren had quietly dumped ALEC.
Formerly known as MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, Berkshire Hathaway Energy is a holding company owned almost entirely by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, which has owned a controlling stake since 1999. It also has a long history of involvement with ALEC, having sponsored ALEC's 1998 annual meeting.
PacifiCorp is now a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy. It has been a member of ALEC individually, as part of its Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force.
NV Energy is also a Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary. It has been a member of ALEC's energy task force, as well as ALEC corporate co-chair of Nevada.
Alliant Energy, which is based in Madison, Wisconsin near CMD, is another long-time ALEC member, having sponsored ALEC's 1998 annual meeting.
Alliant confirmed to Greenpeace in May 2014 that it had cut ties to ALEC.
The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) was also a long-time ALEC member, having funded ALEC in at least 2010 and earlier.
PG&E confirmed to Greenpeace in May 2014 that it had cut ties to ALEC.
The Rush to Cut Ties to ALEC
Corporations that have publicly cut ties to ALEC since CMD launched ALECexposed.org in July 2011 and highlighted Coca Cola's role in the group include Coca Cola, Wells Fargo, General Electric, Western Union, Sprint, 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, and PepsiCo. The addition of these eight companies brings the total to at least 80 corporations. These and 19 non-profits that have cut ties brings the total number of private-sector ALEC members who have cut ties to at least 99.
At least 78 state legislators have also cut ties with ALEC.
Public interest groups including Sierra Club, Forecast the Facts, Sum of Us, CMD and others have been actively urging Google to uphold its motto "don't be evil" by cutting ties to ALEC, which spent years peddling Stand Your Ground gun laws and bills to make it harder for Americans to vote before trying to distance itself from that legacy. It has also worked to repeal renewable energy laws and the ability of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gases. Despite Google's stated commitment to efforts to address global climate change, ALEC has routinely worked to indoctrinate legislators against the near consensus (97 percent) in the scientific community that global climate changes are underway and has sought to undermine the power of the EPA and other agencies to address climate change.