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This Silicon Valley Giant Is Refusing to Leave the Conservative ALEC

A wave of tech companies, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Yelp, and Facebook, have all distanced themselves from the American Legislative Exchange Council and its conservative politics. But one tech company with a relatively progressive history on climate issues isn’t leaving. And it doesn’t have a particularly good explanation for why. 

The company is eBay. On Tuesday, more than 80 organizations, many of them environmental groups, sent a letter to eBay asking it to to end its relationship with ALEC, because of the organization’s "extreme agenda" on environment, labor, and tech issues. ALEC proposes and advocates for model legislation at the state level that will advance conservative and corporate interests, often by attempting to roll back environmental regulation, clean energy subsidies, and climate policy. Following the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012, ALEC lost corporate members like Amazon over its role in advancing Stand Your Ground laws.

When contacted by The New Republic, eBay confirmed that it’s a member of ALEC. Here’s a statement from Abby Smith, eBay Senior Director of Corporate Communications, explaining why it has no plans to leave: 

It should be noted that it’s a business reality that some trade associations and other external groups that advocate for non-environment-related polices that are material to the success of eBay Inc. and our customers may at times hold and/or advocate for positions that conflict with our strategy with respect to climate and energy. As these conflicts are identified, our team of internal stakeholders meets regularly to assess the best approach for resolving these issues.

eBay's posture on environmental issues seems at odds with the positions that ALEC has taken over the years. Last year, eBay was one of 33 companies to sign a Climate Declaration urging stronger federal action on global warming. “eBay Inc. is committed to driving a future for commerce that embraces clean energy innovation and is ultimately more sustainable,” Lori Duvall, Global Director, Green at eBay Inc., said at the time. 

Progressive organizations, particularly environmental groups, have been pressuring corporations to abandon ALEC—taking advantage of the fact that these companies care about their public image among young people, who tend to lean left on environmental issues, and that the companies themselves have pledged to fight climate change. And it's unlikely that the pressure on eBay will lift anytime soon. Dustin Volz pointed out at the National Journal that activists are using the same tactics that eventually led Google to leave ALEC, with CEO Eric Schmidt accusing the conservative group of "just literally lying" on climate change.