News Corp and Occidental Among Latest Firms to Cut Ties with ALEC

Cutting ties to ALECRupert Murdoch's News Corp., Occidental Petroleum, International Paper, and are the latest corporations to say they have left the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) after a wave of technology companies led by Google and Facebook announced their departures last week.

News Corp., the $8 billion-a-year global media company run by media mogul Rupert Murdoch that owns the Wall Street Journal, had been a member of ALEC's Education Task Force and Communications and Technology Task Force. A spokesperson told Media Matters in response to an article published Friday that the company is no longer a member of ALEC. Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Ashley Huston told the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that News Corp. has not been a member of ALEC since its split from 21st Century Fox in July 2013.

Occidental Petroleum, at $24.5 billion in annual revenue, is one of the largest global oil and gas exploration and production companies based in the United States. It had been a member of ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force. Linda Peterson, Associate General Counsel at Occidental, said in a letter to Timothy Smith of Walden Asset Management, who is involved in leadership of shareholder campaigns, that "there are no plans to continue Occidental's membership in, or make further payments to ALEC." She said the company had paid $12,500 to ALEC in 2014. She also referenced the concern that the company could be "presumed to share the positions" on climate change and air pollution regulations held by ALEC, as National Journal reported.

Tim Smith said of Occidental's decision, "This is very welcome news. It's one of the first major oil companies to acknowledge cutting ties to ALEC. It did so in response to ongoing and sustained investor pressure in relationship to ALEC and especially because of ALEC's opposition to renewable energy at the state level. We hope there'll be other companies following."

International Paper, the $29 billion-a-year global paper and packaging company headquartered in Tennessee, had been a member of ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force and had sponsored ALEC's 2011 annual meeting. Company spokesperson Tom Ryan told Common Cause on September 26 that "we no longer have a membership with ALEC" and confirmed that the company no longer funds ALEC., the $1.3 billion-a-year online retailer, had joined ALEC to push a state sales tax legislative issue. A company spokesperson told CMD on September 26 that the company had determined not to renew its membership after a year of funding the group.

"Climate deniers are the new tobacco executives"

Corporations that have publicly cut ties to ALEC since CMD launched in July 2011 include Fortune 500 firms such as General Motors, General Electric, Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Kraft Foods, Coke, and Pepsi. ALEC spent years pushing controverisal Stand Your Ground gun laws and bills to make it harder for Americans to vote before trying to distance itself from that legacy.

More recently, ALEC has been criticized for its bills on energy. The group has worked to repeal renewable energy laws and is working to get state attorneys general to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.

Last week, a number of tech companies left ALEC after sustained campaigning by environmental, labor, and community groups. This prompted Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune to say:

"Climate deniers are the new tobacco executives -- nobody wants to be seen with them. With Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Microsoft all dumping ALEC, it's increasingly obvious that you cannot run a successful 21st century company while associating with ideologues from the stone age. Fossil fuel-backed groups like ALEC are on the wrong side of nearly every effort to tackle the climate crisis and on the wrong side of history."

Interestingly, tobacco giants Altria/Phillip Morris and Reynolds American remain stalwart ALEC funders.

This article has been updated to reflect confirmation received from News Corp. after publication.