Activists group say ALEC's power is fading

Last week Google CEO Eric Schmidt said said his company made a mistake in funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), now that he realizes that they oppose U.S. action on climate change.

“The people who oppose it are really hurting our children and grandchildren and making the world a much worse place,” Schmidt said on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show. “We should not be aligned with such people. They are just literally lying."

With Google being such an influential company in the U.S., Schmidt's blast has already had a deleterious affect on ALEC, according to activists who held a conference call on Monday.

"There has been an unprecedented hemorrhaging of corporations who have been withdrawing their support to ALEC, because of its bad business model that has pushed extreme legislation," said Brad Bauman with the Stand Up to ALEC Coalition.

ALEC officials initially denied that any model policy "denies climate change," but the National Journal reported from an excerpt from ALEC's model legislation on climate change:

The legislature finds and declares that: (A) Human activity has and will continue to alter the atmosphere of the planet. (B) Such activity may lead to demonstrable changes in climate, including a warming of the planetary mean temperature. (C) Such activity may lead to deleterious, neutral, or possibly beneficial climatic changes.

ALEC has been around for four decades, but didn't start attracting much news coverage until the past few years. Now there are groups like Stand Up to ALEC and the Center for Media and Democracy  who have been informing the public about the conservatively oriented organization, which works with Republican legislators around the country to create "model legislation" that they can bring home to their respective states. Their own website says that such ALEC Task Forces "have considered, written and approved hundreds of model policies on a wide range of issues, model policy that will frame the debate today and far into the future. Each year, close to 1,000 bills, based at least in part on ALEC Model Legislation, are introduced in the states. Of these, an average of 20 percent become law."

Some of those laws include Stand Your Ground laws, election "reform" measures that critics consider voter suppression legislation, measures to dismantle unions and preempt minimum wage and sick leave ordinances.

"They're facing a funding and membership crisis," said Jay Riestenberg, research analyst with Common Cause. He cited a number of large technology companies in particular who have recently ended their association with ALEC, citing their disavowal of accepting climate change and their lack of transparency. 

Microsoft announced last month that they were leaving ALEC, Reistenberg said, and Yelp and Facebook dropped out last week. And he said that share-riding companies Uber and Lyft had been "wooed" by ALEC but have now told Common Cause they won't be signing up with them. "There's now pressure on AOL and eBay to leave ALEC," he said.

In 2011 the Center for Media and Democracy launched ALEC exposed, They claim that over 80 firms have dumped ALEC since they launched the site.

That group also lists the various Florida GOP lawmakers who have attended ALEC annual meetings, including Bay area Representatives Larry Ahern and Dana Young in the House, and Senators Jack Latvala and Jeff Brandes.

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