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eBay's Christmas Gift to ALEC: No Renewal

Jan Lee headshotWords by Jan Lee
Investment & Markets

Just in time for the holidays, e-commerce giant eBay announced that it's pulling the plug on its affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). With a centennial list of major corporations that have now nixed their membership, eBay's announcement really isn't a surprise.

Still, it's interesting to consider what is prompting the reversal from companies that have remained, until now, silent members of the lobby group. As American companies have sometimes found, mixing political viewpoints and commerce isn't always appreciated by consumers.

And it can be particularly relevant at holiday time, when companies like eBay, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo and eBay subsidiary Paypal look to online sales for a substantial portion of their revenue.

While ALEC's legislative initiatives span from fiscal reform issues to reigning back the Environmental Protection Agency, it's ALEC's position on climate change that seems to undercut its influence in boardrooms. According to ForecastTheFacts.org, ALEC has been funding workshops featuring Heartland Institute Joseph Blast to teach attendees that "there is no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions ..." and that scientists' findings that carbon dioxide emissions were causing extreme weather "were all false claims."

ALEC's climate change policies have prompted a barrage of responses from some of the country's largest corporations, many of which have yanked their memberships. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt accused ALEC directly of "literally lying" about climate change, while SAP America said it resigned from its position of corporate chair of ALEC because of the organization's "strange policies."

It doesn't take a lot of reflection to realize that, at a time when consumer investment really counts, pulling the support for ALEC's initiatives is a good insurance policy in the face of customer ire and increasing extreme weather predictions from the IPPC.

Still, not all ALEC members seem apt to leave. In addition to the 100 that have dropped their membership, at least three have rejoined the organization in the last two years. Arizona's largest power company, Arizona Public Service, initially let its membership lapse in 2012, and later renewed it with an additional check for $3,000 -- and a seat on the Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force. Oil corporation ConocoPhillips and nuclear services company EnergySolutions both had a similar change of heart about the same time and seem unmoved by the growing storm over climate change policies.

eBay's defection seems to underscore a point that can be claimed by both sides of the conflict: Money and robust sales speak just as loudly as the environment does. While oil companies and coal power providers may stand to benefit from ALEC initiatives (temporarily, at least), those who depend on the consumer sector for their holiday cheer realize that a happy 2015 may very well depend on keeping consumer values in mind -- especially during extreme weather seasons.

Image: eBay

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

Read more stories by Jan Lee