Emerson Electric is the latest corporation to confirm it has ended funding for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), joining a notable wave of recent corporate defectors that has included Microsoft, Google, Facebook, AOL and Yahoo.
Emerson first revealed that it ended its association in discussions with Walden Asset Management, which has engaged the corporation over its affiliation with ALEC. An Emerson spokesperson confirmed this to CMD, but refused to provide further details about the reason for its decision or precisely when the relationship ended. The equipment manufacturer, which employees more than 131,000 people and has annual revenue of nearly $25 billion, has faced pressure from shareholders for several years over its relationship with ALEC. It now seems that Emerson stopped funding ALEC some time ago, but decided to keep quiet about it until now at a time when other large corporations like Google and Microsoft are distancing themselves from ALEC.
ALEC has been plagued by controversy since 2011 when CMD launched the ALEC Exposed project, revealing the role of the organization in promoting disenfranchising Voter ID laws, NRA-sponsored lax gun laws, and a raft of legislation designed to increase corporate profits by privatizing services and eliminating regulations. Most recently, ALEC has been exposed for teaching state legislators climate change denial at its conferences.
As CMD reported earlier this week when AOL announced it would leave ALEC:
The recent exodus of tech firms from ALEC has come following increased awareness of the group's role in teaching state legislators climate change denial during its closed door meetings. Funded by some of the largest coal, oil and gas companies, including Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy, ALEC has long opposed action to tackle climate change, blocked efforts for any kind of limit on carbon pollution and opposed the development of renewable energy. Following renewed public concern about climate change, ALEC's corporate funders appear increasingly unwilling to be publicly associated with the group.
ALEC Teaches Climate Change Denial
In August, CMD obtained and released documents from the ALEC Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas, which took place that month, with legislators being told during a presentation from famed climate change denier Joe Bast of the Heartland Institute, that "there is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change" and "there is no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and no point in attempting to do so." Heartland is best known for a billboard campaign which compared those that believe in climate change with terrorists such as the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.
Another session during the same conference was led by staff from The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), another climate change denial group, which was titled "How to Think and Talk About Climate and Energy Issues." At that session, legislators were provided with talking points to take back to their states, which touted the supposed benefits of increased CO2 and denied carbon dioxide is a major pollutant causing climate change.
Then in September, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt went on NPR's Diane Rehm show. Following a question from a caller about ALEC, Schmidt admitted that Google had made a mistake in providing ALEC with funding because of its position on climate change and its opposition to renewable energy. "We should not be aligned with such people. They are just literally lying," Schmidt said.
Within weeks, Facebook, Yahoo, Yelp, Overstock.com all announced that they too had or would soon leave ALEC. Most recently, SAP America, the German software firm and the ALEC corporate board chair, announced that it would immediately cease support for ALEC, telling CMD in a statement that this was because of the groups "strange policies" on climate change, renewable energy, guns and voting rights.
Emerson Electric's decision now puts further pressure on the few remaining ALEC corporations who have a brand to protect, including eBay and Expedia.