Climate change squabble torches Google-ALEC relations

By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Over 150 state lawmakers are firing back at Google for claims made by the company’s executive chairman, billionaire Eric Schmidt, the lawmakers say are based on “misinformation from climate activists who intentionally confuse free market policy perspectives for climate change denial.”

Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt talks with Nik Gowing on Nov. 25, 2013.

Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman and former CEO, told National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm on Monday the company planned to leave the prominent free market organization American Legislative Exchange Council, telling Rehm the organization was “literally lying” about the facts surrounding climate change.

ALEC is a forum for state lawmakers and members of the private sector to discuss model policies based on free market, limited government and federalist principles.

Schmidt’s remarks were made a day after an estimated 310,000 protesters marched through the streets of Manhattan demanding action on the reduction of carbon emissions at the UN Climate Summit later in the week.

On Wednesday, 156 state lawmakers — all ALEC members — sent a strongly worded letter to Google, stating they were “deeply concerned” by Schmidt’s comments, calling Google’s decision to leave the organization a “calculated departure” influenced by anti-ALEC progressive advocacy groups.

“Many of us have worked side-by-side with Google at ALEC and in our states to ensure the continued growth and innovation of the technology-sector and the American economy. It is a shame that you would harm this working relationship by falsely attacking ALEC, an organization of which we are proud,” said the lawmakers.

The lawmakers went on to say “no ALEC model policy denies climate change; however, the organization does maintain model policy designed to address the scientific and economic aspects of the issue of climate change.”

The organization’s opponents, critical of its conservative ties and opposition to progressive policies for big corporations, view the forum as a threat to democracy and the environment.

A coalition of 50 progressive organizations, which included the AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club, reiterated that sentiment in their own letter to Google in early September, reported National Journal, which called upon the search giant to cut ties with ALEC.

Microsoft had already announced its decision to leave the group, and Yelp, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, followed Google’s lead on Wednesday by announcing its own decision to leave ALEC, but praised the organization for its effectiveness in helping to pass laws against abusive and intimidating lawsuits.

Google didn’t respond to Watchdog.org’s request for comment.

In an interview with Watchdog.org on Wednesday, ALEC CEO Lisa B. Nelson said, “I think that ALEC and Google’s approach to climate change is probably fairly similar.”

“We also are seeking free market solutions to anything that is going to be better for the environment and the country,” said Nelson, stating that while there’s debate and exchange at ALEC meetings, that’s what the organization wants to provide “so that all parties can talk about the issues and come up with a solution that works.”

“It’s just unfortunate that Google has allowed itself to be influenced and coerced into leaving ALEC by some of the organizations that are putting pressure on American companies because of maybe our politics,” she said.

Contact Josh Peterson at jpeterson@watchdog.org. Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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