Government & Politics

Yahoo joins Facebook, Google, others in leaving conservative political group ALEC

Yahoo! Inc. joined Facebook Inc. and Yelp Inc. in dropping out of the American Legislative Exchange Council, adding to the list of technology companies departing the political group that backs limited government.

Yahoo, the Sunnyvale, California-based Internet company, said it would join social-media company Facebook, of Menlo Park, California, and Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. in leaving ALEC, after being unable to resolve differences over key issues.

“We’ve decided to discontinue our membership in ALEC,” a company spokesman said in an e-mail yesterday to Bloomberg BNA’s Ari Natter.

“We periodically review our membership in organizations and, at this time, we will no longer participate in the ALEC Task Force on Communications and Technology.”

Facebook said in a statement yesterday it was “not likely to renew our membership in 2015.” Yelp, which operates a website where users can rate restaurants, bars and other services, departed the group it joined last year, said Luther Lowe, Yelp’s director of government affairs.

ALEC has been criticized for working to overturn state mandates for renewable energy and has recommended legislation calling for researching the benefits of climate change and the economic risks of carbon-dioxide caps. It faced scrutiny for supporting stand-your-ground laws after the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin by security guard George Zimmerman, who was later acquitted of murder.

Common Cause, which says it advocates for open government, and the Center for Media and Democracy have pressed companies to leave ALEC over its promotion of conservative causes and closed- door meetings with lawmakers and company lobbyists to develop legislation, said Dale Eisman, a Common Cause spokesman.

The Center for Media and Democracy operates an ALECexposed website that says more than 80 companies have left the group.

ALEC, co-founded by conservative icon Paul Weyrich four decades ago, brings businesses and state legislators together to discuss “model legislation” on subjects ranging from renewable energy to net neutrality.

ALEC, which is based in Arlington, Virginia, outside of Washington, says it supports free-market solutions rather than government regulation to problems, including climate change.

“A lot of San Francisco-based and Silicon Valley-based tech companies share similar policy goals, it’s not unlikely that if one goes another will go, as much as it pains me to say that,” Bill Meierling, a spokesman for the group said in an interview with Bloomberg BNA.

“It’s really unfortunate that these technology companies are going to be missing out on conversations with 25 percent of legislators in the country,” he said.

Yelp joined ALEC to develop legislation to make it harder to bring lawsuits against people who post reviews online. ALEC membership adopted the model legislation that Yelp supported.

“Given that our very specific goal was achieved, we allowed our membership to expire,” said Lowe, who also noted a “backlash” directed at the company after joining the group.

Microsoft had announced it quit the group earlier. This week, Google Inc. Chairman Eric Schmidt said his company’s membership in ALEC since 2011 had been a mistake, citing its stance against government action to combat 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.”

In response, 156 state legislators and ALEC members sent a letter to Google yesterday saying its “calculated departure” from the group was “based on misinformation from climate activists who intentionally confuse free market policy perspectives for climate change denial.”

The announced departures come as thousands gathered in New York City during the weekend to press world leaders to do more to address the risks of climate change.

President Barack Obama, in an address yesterday, urged leaders to reach a deal to combat climate change “while we still can.”