Over the course of a single short week in late September, one Silicon Valley tech giant after the next cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a libertarian, free market think tank that actively fights against clean energy and climate-focused policies on the state and local level.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt fired the starting gun on the tech exodus, when he claimed on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show that ALEC was “just literally lying” about climate change, and explained that Google’s membership was “sort of a mistake.”
Google, said Schmidt, “should not be aligned with such people,” and announced that the company would not renew its membership in ALEC. Within a week, Facebook, Yahoo, Uber, and Lyft all followed suit. On Monday, AOL joined the march away from ALEC. (Yelp had allowed its membership to expire months prior, and proudly announced that week that it had severed all ties with ALEC.)
And then there’s eBay.
The online auction house is still a dues-paying member of ALEC, and is sending mixed messages to climate campaigners and the site’s users and shareholders about its future with ALEC.
A rep from eBay sent DeSmogBlog an uncredited statement, which emphasizes that “we do not agree with ALEC on other issues, including climate change.” The statement in full:
As a global company, with broad business and public policy interests worldwide, we engage with a diverse range of trade associations and public policy advocacy groups. We only work with ALEC on one area and that is to support small businesses and help to protect them from threats including unfair tax legislation and state and local legislative issues. This helps enable our sellers’ voices to be heard just as loudly as those with vast resources and assets that no small business can match on their own. While we do not agree with ALEC on other issues, including climate change, we believe we can still work collaboratively on this specific area. We review our membership on an annual basis and will do so again shortly for 2015.
eBay believes strongly in environmental leadership and stewardship. We are proud of our leadership on climate change, and we intend to continue being a strong voice for both climate change and small business. More details can be found at http://www.ebayinc.com/social-innovation/enabling-greener-commerce.
In October, Brant Olson, Director of the climate campaign group Forecast the Facts, asked CEO John Donahoe outright if eBay would reconsider its membership in ALEC, given the organization’s anti-scientific position on climate change.
“We’re open to it,” answered Donahoe, adding that “we’re not with them” on climate change.
Abby Smith, Senior Director of Corporate Communications at eBay, told DeSmogBlog that the company had not yet decided whether it would be represented at ALEC’s annual meetings in Washington D.C. in early December, and that the company had not yet decided whether it would renew membership in 2015.
Climate campaigners are frustrated and confused by eBay’s position since the company has a history of leadership on climate issues in the business world.
“What’s so surprising, and disappointing, about eBay’s refusal so far to ditch ALEC is that on paper, I would’ve picked eBay as one of the first tech giants to leave a climate denial group. Not the last one,” said Ryan Canney, Senior Campaign Manager with Forecast the Facts, which has a petition calling upon the company to drop ALEC.
“eBay wants to bill itself as a climate leader, but that’s impossible until eBay drops ALEC, plain and simple,” Canney continued. “Lending its credibility and brand to a climate denial group puts eBay on the wrong side of climate history.”
“eBay’s the only tech leader in a pro-climate business coalition – Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy, the anti-ALEC,” said Canney. “And that’s not to mention eBay’s investment in renewable energy to help fuel its operation”.
As founder of eBay and now Chairman of the Board, Pierre Omidyar‘s silence on the ALEC issue is particularly confounding.
Through his philanthropic efforts with the Omidyar Network, Omidyar has established himself as a true champion of government transparency efforts and is one of the country’s greatest financial supporters of grassroots efforts to discredit the type of pay-to-play politics that ALEC embodies.
Omidyar is also a producer of “Merchants of Doubt,” a must-see documentary based on the acclaimed book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway that is currently making the festival circuit, revealing the “pundits for hire” that undermine climate science just as they deceived the public for Big Tobacco decades earlier.
By all evidence, Omidyar has been a true tech leader on climate change, clean energy, and government transparency. So climate campaigners and ALEC watchdog groups are particularly frustrated by eBay’s unrelenting position on ALEC.
Calls and emails from DeSmogBlog to the Omidyar Network for comment have gone unanswered.
Canney said, “eBay’s values don’t jibe with ALEC‘s extreme agenda, and CEO John Donahoe and Chairman Pierre Omidyar need to get the company back on the right side of climate history.”