Google plans to sever its relationship with the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council following a wave of public scrutiny about the conservative group's climate-change views. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt indicated in an interview Monday with NPR's Diane Rehm that Google would drop its ALEC membership "in the future," but did not specify a date.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) no doubt found it easier to operate when it was largely unknown, working behind the scenes to advance a far-right agenda. As we've discussed before, shadowy obscurity allowed ALEC to be more effective.
But as the group made the transition from obscurity to notoriety, suddenly the organization that quietly wrote ready-made legislation for Republican legislators started losing friends who saw associations with ALEC as a public-relations problem.
A caller asked Schmidt about Google's ALEC ties, and the chairman responded that Google funded them for an unspecified cause, but added, "I think the consensus within the company was that that was some sort of mistake, and so we're trying to not do that in the future."
In this case, climate change seemed to be the impetus for the disassociation. "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," Schmidt said. "And so we should not be aligned with such people -- they're just, they're just literally lying."
Google, of course, is a massive multi-billion-dollar company, and it doesn't look good for ALEC to lose its support. But it's especially jarring given the number of other major companies who've done the same thing.
In July, for example, Microsoft announced that it had severed its ALEC ties. As msnbc reported, companies ranging from GM to CVS to MillerCoors have done the same.
Note, some of these companies walked away from ALEC because of climate, but others had unrelated motivations. The conservative group had a broad, all-encompassing approach to the conservative agenda, giving prominent businesses plenty of reasons to question its associations.
Of course, it's not just a public-relations issue -- companies that partner with ALEC pay lucrative dues to finance the group's lobbying efforts. The more businesses walk away, the bigger the impact on ALEC's bottom line, and the harder it is for the organization to maintain the influence it's accustomed to wielding.