Who is ALEC, and Why do They Hate Your Children?

December 13, 2014

Newly emboldened, if not empowered, by the election results, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is planning an even more aggressive war on sane environmental regulations, in fact, on any regulations, of any kind, that might impinge in any way, on anyone who does anything evil, anywhere, for the rest of time.

So, why are there companies that still support ALEC?  A slew of high flying tech companies fled a few months ago, following the gigantic climate march in New York.

Above, Google’s Eric Schmidt in his “They’re just lying” interview on the Diane Rheam show, the day after the New York demonstration – coincidentally I am sure..


In August, Microsoft announced that it’d be severing ties with ALEC, citing its opposition to renewable energy projects; in September, Google chairman Eric Schmidt said his company would be leaving as well, in part because ALEC is “just literally lying” about climate change (the group tried, and totally failed, to reform its stance). But despite the tech exodus that followed — Facebook, Yahoo and Yelp are no longer ALEC-affiliated — the group is sure to be buoyed by the favorable results of the midterm elections, Nick Surgey, of the Center for Media and Democracy, told reporters during a press call Wednesday.

And according to Aliya Haq, the climate change special projects director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, it ”will actually be escalating its attacks on environmental safeguards.”

The “most extreme” proposal getting attention at this week’s conference, according to the NRDC, is a plan to have Congress disband the EPA, slash funding for environmental protections by 75 percent and replace the federal agency with a group of 300 state agency employees — even though the entire point of having the EPA is because pollution extends beyond state boundaries.


Thanks to pressure from shareholders, unions and public interest organizations, more than 90 companies have severed ties with ALEC since 2012, according to the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which tracks the secretive group’s activities on its ALEC Exposed website. The list of deserters comprises a veritable Who’s Who of U.S. business, including Amazon, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, Kraft, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart. And in the days following Schmidt’s denunciation of ALEC for “making the world a much worse place,” other Internet companies headed for the exits. Yahoo cancelled its membership, Facebook said it was unlikely it would renew next year, and Yelp divulged it was no longer a member.

Since its inception in 1973, ALEC—which currently boasts more than 1,800 state legislators and nearly 300 corporations, trade associations, corporate law firms and nonprofits as members—has been promoting model state legislation on a range of issues, from “stand your ground” laws to privatizing prisons to worker rights. Nearly 98 percent of the group’s funding comes from its corporate sector members, which pay annual dues of $7,000 to $25,000. Those fees grant them direct access to ALEC legislators—who each pay a token $50 a year—and the opportunity to ghostwrite sample bills that serve as templates for statehouses across the country.

ALEC also lost a few energy sector members over the last two years, notably ConocoPhillips, Entergy, Xcel Energy and, in the wake of Schmidt’s outburst, Occidental Petroleum. But roughly 30 fossil fuel companies and trade associations—including BP America, Chevron, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Peabody Energy and Shell — are still steadfast supporters.

Two of the companies—ExxonMobil and Koch Industries—are so gung ho that they’ve been kicking in significantly more than the annual fee. ExxonMobil donated $942,500 to ALEC over the last decade, while Koch family foundations gave $747,000 between 2007 and 2012. On top of that, the oil and gas industry’s premier trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, contributed $88,000 between 2008 and 2010.

Given this support, it’s not surprising that ALEC’s sample bills would, among other things, impede government oversight on fracking, undermine regional cap-and-trade climate pacts and introduce climate misinformation in school curricula. Last year, according to CMD estimates, ALEC sponsored more than 75 energy bills in 34 states. Thirteen of those bills, if enacted, would have frozen, rolled back or repealed state standards requiring electric utilities to increase their use of renewable energy. Fortunately, all 13 went down in defeat.

What is surprising is five of the seven ALEC energy behemoths I listed above—all but Koch Industries and Peabody Energy—publicly acknowledge the threat posed by climate change on their respective websites and claim to be doing something about it.

BP, for example, states that the company “believes that climate change is an important long-term issue that justifies global action.” Chevron says “taking prudent, practical and cost-effective action to address climate change risks is the right thing to do.”

Here, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson acknowledges the reality of human caused climate change:

Duke Energy, meanwhile, maintains it is “committed to finding new ways to confront one of our industry’s biggest challenges—global climate change.” And ExxonMobil, which sits on ALEC’s corporate board, asserts it “engage[s] with policymakers directly and through trade associations around the world to encourage sound policy solutions for addressing the risks of climate change.”

Finally, Shell’s website features a lengthy Q&A with the company’s chief climate change adviser, David Hone, who explains the basics of climate science and then concedes: “Business can’t solve the climate problem on its own. I think it’s the role of companies like Shell—which has been a strong advocate of the core solutions since the late 1990s—to help identify possible solutions for policymakers.”

Just a few weeks ago, Hone’s boss, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden, amplified his company’s position in an interview with the Washington Post. “Let me be very, very clear,” van Beurden said. “For us, climate change is real and it’s a threat that we want to act on. We’re not aligning with skeptics.”

If that’s the case, why is Shell—or BP, Chevron, Duke Energy and ExxonMobil, for that matter—still an ALEC member?


8 Responses to “Who is ALEC, and Why do They Hate Your Children?”

  1. anotheralionel Says:

    Chevron says, ‘whatever…’ and behaves like this:

    In the Chevron court case, ordinary Ecuadorians’ voices don’t seem to count,

    maybe they can move some of that toxic sludge to Tillerson’s back-yard because Exxon has this take:

    Exxon Mobil says climate change unlikely to stop it selling fossil fuels.

    Of course similar negatives could be found for each of the fossil fuel company. Shell eyeing up the Arctic and BP trying to wriggle out of paying for the Macondo ecosystems assault. How can one put a price on species sent extinct?

  2. Don Osborn Says:

    It may be VERY helpful to be identifying “more than 1,800 state legislators” as well as companies that are ALEC members. 2016 is coming up and we should put pressure on them starting now. Surely some one has a leaked copy of an ALEC membership list. PUBLISH IT.

  3. fletch92131 Says:

    Frankly, I’m surprised that Mr. Tillerson even admitted that Global Warming was occurring. Given the uncertain nature of the evidence against it, he made quite a few bold and logical statements (emphasizing Adaptation, rather than prevention [which cannot occur])

    To assume that this is somehow agreement with CAGW is pure poppycock!

    • jpcowdrey Says:

      Given the uncertain nature of the evidence against it (global warming …)

      Grammar is not your friend, fletch.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        I can live with fletch’s grammar deficit. I just wish would he would make friends with cogent thinking and arguments.

  4. dumboldguy Says:

    If hell exists, the hottest corner should be reserved for anyone who has had ANY association with ALEC or supported its activities in any way. ALEC has done massive damage to the country for years on many fronts, and the last paragraphs of this post regarding the fossil fuel interests certainly DO lead to the question “If that’s the case, why is Shell—or BP, Chevron, Duke Energy and ExxonMobil, for that matter—still an ALEC member?”

    IMO, the answer is that they are all in league with the devil (if he exists) and the conservative movement that is behind ALEC. Another corner of hell should be reserved for all of them, with the coal and tar sands people closest to the fire.

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