Earlier this week, Microsoft finally renounced its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), one of the most powerful corporate bill mills in the country.
Leaving marked a significant move away from the flock for Microsoft, which sat on ALEC’s communication and technology task force next to the likes of Google, Facebook, eBay, and Yelp. Like its tech industry peers, Microsoft appeared to be maintaining ALEC membership in the interest of protecting online commenting. Its presence became even more noteworthy after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation made a show of breaking ties to the group, presumably over ALEC’s focus on the spread of voter ID and "Stand Your Ground" laws, the latter of which came to light after the Trayvon Martin shooting.
In more recent years, participation in ALEC has once again drawn sharp criticism to the tech industry, especially to companies that brand themselves with a progressive, green image. Environmental groups have long criticized clean energy-touting companies like Google and Facebook for continuing to participate in ALEC as the group rolled out model policies that would appear to directly contradict those companies’ green investments—policies like charging solar panel home-owners a fee for feeding energy back into the grid, or rejecting states’ renewable portfolio standard plans. In reporting Microsoft’s ALEC exit, CNET guessed that it was the environmentalist pain point that finally tipped the company over the edge.
Facebook declined to comment on Microsoft’s departure when reached. Google also did not respond for a request to comment on its maintaining its presence in ALEC. Their continuing silence leaves an awfully big question hanging in the air: How long can you keep calling yourself a supporter of renewable energy when you also fund anti-renewable policy-making?
[Top: Flickr user Marcin Wichary]