Weeks after more than 50 activist groups publicly called upon Google to end its affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a controversial nonprofit that helps representatives from corporations meet privately with legislators, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt announced on an NPR program this week that the company has withdrawn its support.
Google’s affiliation with ALEC came to light just over a year ago in a Daily Beast article, and has been a source of criticism of the company in the time since. ALEC is publicly opposed to net neutrality and municipal broadband, and its work is believed to have helped the companies pushing against these efforts get support from lawmakers.
Schimdt said on The Diane Rehm Show that Google is withdrawing its support for ALEC due to the group’s stance on climate change, which involves opposition to government programs mandating the use of renewable energy.
Schmidt’s announcement is Google’s first public acknowledgment of its relationship with ALEC. After Common Cause published its open letter, which was signed by more than 50 other activist groups, Google responded to a request for comment from Ars Technica only by saying, "we aren't going to be commenting on this letter." Many saw its affiliation with ALEC as hypocrisy given its simultaneous membership with the Internet Association, whose views oppose ALEC’s on net neutrality and municipal broadband, and its own public comments in favor of net neutrality in the past.
Indeed, Schmidt denounced ALEC without providing much detail on their relationship nor addressing ALEC's efforts in the technology industry. His comments only came after a listener called into the radio show and asked Schmidt about Google’s affiliation with the group. From the transcript of the interview:
I'm curious to know if Google is still supporting ALEC, which is that fund lobbyist in D.C. that are funding climate change deniers.
We funded them as part of a political game for something unrelated. I think the consensus within the company was that that was sort of a mistake. And so we're trying to not do that in the future.
And how did you get involved with them in the first place? And were you then disappointed in what you saw?
Well, the company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts. What a shock. And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring. And the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people. They're just literally lying.
Google isn't the first technology company to dissolve its relationship with ALEC in the wake of public controversy. Amazon announced it was not renewing membership in May 2012, shortly after ALEC had received criticism for pushing legislation based on Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law used to defend George Zimmerman in the murder case of Trayvon Martin earlier that year. And Microsoft left the group just last month in response to ALEC's stance on renewable energy.