Groups Call on eBay to Quit ALEC

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In this June 5, 2014 photo, people walk in front of an eBay Inc. sign at the company's headquarters in San Jose, Calif. EBay Inc. reports quarterly financial results on Wednesday, July 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
In this June 5, 2014, photo, people walk in front of an eBay Inc. sign at the company's headquarters in San Jose, California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

First it was Microsoft, then Google. Then a cascade of tech companies — Facebook, Yahoo, Yelp — announced they would, or had, divested from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a business lobbying group, citing the organization’s lack of transparency and efforts to thwart government action on climate change.

Now the pressure is on large tech companies that remain ALEC members. A coalition of 80 organizations — including advocacy groups, investors, unions and religious councils — wrote to eBay founder Pierre Omidyar today asking him to break the company’s ties to ALEC. A similar letter last month preceded Google’s announcement that it would divest.

The letter’s authors write: “The public knows that the ALEC operation — which brings state legislators and corporate lobbyists behind closed doors to discuss proposed legislation and share lavish dinners — threatens our democracy. The public is asking eBay to stop participating in this scheme.”

Reporting on the letter today, The National Journal’s Dustin Volz writes:

The letter to eBay’s top brass boasts about 30 more signatures than the one issued to Google last month.

In a statement responding to the eBay letter, an ALEC spokesman accused its critics of confusing “free-market policy for climate-change denial.”

“These groups refuse to acknowledge ALEC has no position on climate change, but does question government mandates and subsidies that empower the government to pick winners and losers and artificially inflate certain industry sectors,” the spokesman said. “ALEC is for an ‘all of the above’ approach whereby renewable energy expands according to consumer demand.”

Though ALEC maintains it does not deny climate change, the group sponsors model legislation for state lawmakers that declares that it remains unclear whether human emissions are changing global temperatures, a view that runs counter to the scientific consensus on climate change.

ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson told National Journal last week “I don’t know the science on that,” when pressed whether human emissions drive climate change.

We noted last month that at ALEC’s recent meeting in Dallas, the Heartland Institute presented a slideshow to its membership arguing that “there is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change,” and “no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and no point in attempting to do so.” ALEC also claims an ambivalent outlook about the disastrous effects of climate change, stating in its model legislation that it could lead to “deleterious, neutral, or possibly beneficial climatic changes.”

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John Light is a reporter and producer for the Moyers team. His work has appeared at The Atlantic, Grist, Mother Jones, Salon, Slate, Vox and Al Jazeera, and has been broadcast on Public Radio International. He's a graduate of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. You can follow him on Twitter at @LightTweeting.
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