Why Lisa Cried When Eric Dumped ALEC

Great piece by Michael Brune about why we need to stand up to ALEC!

Coming Clean: The blog of Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune

Michael Brune

October 7, 2014

Exactly 54 days after Lisa B. Nelson, the new CEO of the American Legislative Council (ALEC), started her job, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, dropped the bomb: Google wanted out of its relationship with ALEC. “That was some sort of mistake,” Schmidt said on The Diane Rehm Show when a caller asked why Google was supporting the organization. “We’re trying to not do that in the future.”

It’s like breaking up via text with your girlfriend when you’re 16,” said Nelson, presumably before throwing out the mixtapes and Google hoodie Eric gave her and unfriending him on Facebook. Wait a minute, she couldn’t do that, because Facebook is also leaving ALEC. Well, then maybe she could post a picture of her trashed hoodie and mixtapes to Yahoo’s Flickr site? Nope, Yahoo’s ditching ALEC, too.

How about leaving mean reviews of Google, Flickr, and Yahoo on Yelp? Sorry, Yelp already gave ALEC the thumbs down. And before she opens Outlook to send some “actually-I’m the-one-who-broke-up-with-YOU” emails, she might recall that even Microsoft has Ctrl-Z’d its relationship with ALEC.

Any way you look at it, Lisa B. Nelson’s first 60 days on the job were, as they say, character building. But, really, she shouldn’t take it personally. It’s not her — it’s ALEC.

What is it about ALEC that has given so many Big Tech firms cold feet? For that matter, what is ALEC, exactly? It calls itself a nonpartisan organization that focuses on the principles of limited government, free markets, and federalism. Not quite. The New York Times, reporting on Google’s defection, described ALEC as “a conservative-leaning group that has urged repeal of state renewable power standards and other pro-renewable policies.” And the Times was being kind.

ALEC is actually one of the most brazen attempts to steal our democracy that corporate interests have yet conceived. The “council” is composed of representatives from corporations, along with state legislators. Corporations like Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries pay fees along with other generous financial contributions. The legislators pay nominal dues but are forced to bring their families on all-expenses-paid vacations, where they mingle with their corporate benefactors and receive “model” bills (written by the corporations for the corporations). The rested-and-relaxed lawmakers can then take these Stepford bills home and introduce them in their state houses. The only way to make this easier would be to cut out the middleman and just let the corporations pass the laws themselves.

Because this all happens at the state level, it tends to fly under the national radar. It’s also aimed dead at the heart of our absolutely critical local campaigns to develop clean energy and combat climate change.

ALEC exists solely to do the will of the corporations that bankroll it, which is how technology firms got seduced into supporting it in the first place. They hoped ALEC could help them with issues aligned with their own values, such as an open Internet.

What changed? The Climate Movement, which reared its head and roared on September 21 around the world, has made it a lot harder for some companies to keep turning a blind eye to the harm that ALEC does by undermining clean energy and funding climate denial.

Eric Schmidt was blunt: ALEC is “literally lying” about the reality of climate change, he said. “[They] are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people.” I can see how that would be a problem for a company whose official corporate motto is still “Don’t be evil.”

“Our citizens keep marching,” said President Obama at the UN Climate Summit last month, one day after hundreds of thousands around the world mobilized to demand climate action. “We cannot pretend we do not hear them.”

That is the strength of a movement like this one. It blazes a light that makes it impossible to miss the difference between what is good and what is evil. And here’s how strong we have grown: Last week, Occidental Petroleum — an oil company! — announced it was leaving ALEC rather than be associated with its positions on climate change and EPA regulations. Other tech (and non-tech) companies that have severed ties with ALEC include Amazon, General Electric, Apple, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Bank of America, and Proctor & Gamble. Many of these companies left a few years ago after Color of Change and other grassroots organizations called out ALEC for its support of voter-suppression and “stand your ground” laws around the country.

Unfortunately, ALEC still has plenty of corporate funders who are willing to ignore the difference between what’s good and what’s evil. Perhaps Lisa Nelson shouldn’t have been so quick to toss that Google hoodie — she could have sold it on eBay!

That’s right: eBay is still supporting an organization that Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Yelp, Yahoo, and Facebook have all unfriended.

Send a message to CEO John Donahoe today and tell him that it’s about time eBay, too, opened its eyes and saw the light.

Make Polluters Pay for Their Toxic Waste!

Take Action: Polluters Must Pay for Superfund Sites Take Action: Polluters Must Pay for Superfund SitesCongress enacted the Superfund toxic waste cleanup program in 1980, following the discovery of toxic waste seeping into homes and harming health in Love Canal, New York. Even though the Superfund program has been responsible for the cleanup of hundreds of toxic waste sites, more than a thousand sites continue to threaten health and water.

When the polluter pays fees stopped in 1995, the Trust Fund quickly dried up — leaving taxpayers to pay the full cost of cleaning up abandoned Superfund sites.

Take Action
Contact your senators today and tell them to support the Superfund Polluter Pays Restoration Act of 2014 (S 2679) to make polluters pay for their toxic waste!

Take Action: No More Coal Ash Disasters Take Action: No More Coal Ash Disasters

Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal for electricity, is one of the largest waste streams in the country, with nearly 140 million tons produced each year. This toxic waste, which contains dangerous chemicals like arsenic, mercury, chromium, selenium, lead, and boron, is stored in more than 400 landfills and over 1,000 wet impoundments across the country. Yet currently no federal safeguards exist to protect communities and waterways from coal ash pollution.

Take Action
Tell your state legislators to support the EPA on finalizing strong coal ash safeguards by the end of this year.

The Dan River coal ash spill. Photo by Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins.

Sign Up: Our Wild America Sign Up: Our Wild America

Sign up for our monthly Our Wild America newsletter to get the inside scoop about the Sierra Club’s work to explore, enjoy, and protect America’s wild legacy.

Stay up-to-date on the challenges facing our public lands and wildlife (especially in the face of climate disruption), follow what the Sierra Club is doing to connect people with nature, and learn what actions you can take to help protect our great outdoors.

Sign up today.

Grassroots Activism: Keep the People's Climate March Momentum Going! Grassroots Activism: Keep the People’s Climate March Momentum Going!

It’s been a week since more than 400,000 people marched in NYC for climate action (and in many other cities across the U.S. and world), but you can still take action!

Take Action
Tell the Environmental Protection Agency you support the Clean Power Plan.

Save the Pups – Join the Sierra Club today!

Support the Sierra Club today:

Wolves’ survival depends on you.

Become a Sierra Club Member for $15 and help reach our goal of 3,000 new members – and get these gifts:

Commemorative Rucksack OR a Sierra Club convertible weekender bag AND
BONUS 2015 Wilderness Wall calendar



It’s hard enough raising baby wolf pups in the wild. Add gunfire, and it’s unimaginable.

And with a decision that could strip gray wolves of their endangered status expected any day now…well, things will very likely get very bad, very fast for gray wolves.

We’re running out of time. 

We need to stop politicians from rolling back over 40 years of wolf and wildlife recovery. Become a Sierra Club Member today for $15.

With 2.4 million members and supporters like you on our side, Sierra Club has been leading the charge, fighting to save wildlife and the most treasured places in Our Wild America from dirty energy.

And if wolves lose their protections, Sierra Club will be front and center, fighting a hard-hitting legal case to get the decision reversed.

Your membership will provide the people power and resources we need the moment wolves or other wildlife come under attack – and the stamina to go as many rounds it takes to win big battles for the environment like Keystone XL.

With the possibility of the Senate changing hands and the tar sands pipeline approval inching closer, we need to show Big Oil that we’re a force to be reckoned with.

Right now when you join the Sierra Club, you’ll receive your choice of an 1892 Commemorative Rucksack OR a Sierra Club convertible weekender bag. And for a limited time, we’ll ALSO send you our 2015 Wilderness Wall Calendar – for FREE. Join the Sierra Club today for only $15!

This exclusive calendar is our annual celebration of the wild places and precious habitats that we all work so hard to protect – for the animals that call them home, and for future generations to enjoy.

Plus when you join the Sierra Club, you will also get these great member-only benefits:

  • 1-year subscription to our award-winning Sierra Magazine
  • Discounts on outdoor gear and more from Columbia, Travelocity, Public bikes and more
  • Your invitation to Sierra Club national and local outings
  • Updates and discounts on ways you can help your reduce your footprint

Thank you in advance for joining the Sierra Club. We need you to stand with us today!


Michael Brune
Executive Director, Sierra Club

Sierra Club NC Chapter Volunteer Recognition Award – Congratulations Mary Lou Buck!

At the September 28th Sierra Club NC Chapter Executive Committee meeting, our tireless Central Piedmont member Mary Lou Buck was awarded a North Carolina Chapter Volunteer Recognition Award for here work on the Solarize Charlotte program. If you know Mary Lou, you know that she has contributed to the Club in many, many more ways. We’re so lucky to have volunteer leaders like Mary Lou. Please join me in congratulating Mary Lou!


Mary Lou Buck Award


So Much Happening! 4QT Mecklenburg Environmental/Social Justice Events

Here are some of our Sierra Club and community events that are related to environmental and social justice issues. I hope to see you at many of these!

Be the Change

People’s Climate March

See, listen and learn about the March and what you can do to grow the movement!

Memories and Images of the Peoples Climate March


The New Climate Movement Has Begun – Be a Part of the Change!

“The alarm bells keep ringing, our citizens keep marching. We must answer the call”

 Oct 6 – MSNBC “All In: Coal Country” with NC Coal Ash and Duke Energy

Monday, October 6th at 8:00 PM, Chris Hayes on MSNBC will be doing an hour-long investigative special on the coal industry

Oct 6 – MSNBC “All In: Coal Country” with NC Coal Ash and Duke Energy

 Oct 7 – 2nd of 3 NC Senate Debates with Kay Hagan vs. Thom Tillis, ‘Round 2’

Host a house party to watch and discuss. Or, Drinking Liberally Charlotte is hosting a viewing party at Kennedy’s Premium Bar & Grill – 366 N. Caswell (http://www.kennedyscharlotte.com). Folks will be upstairs starting at 6:30pm and stick around afterwards as long as you’d like to discuss how the candidates performed. The Debate starts at 7pm and lasts just 1 hour. This one is hosted by George Stephanopoulos!

 Oct 9 – Charlotte Bike Talk!

Charlotte Bike Talk! – Oct 9

 Oct 10 – Voter Registration Deadline

More information at http://charlottesierraclub.org/political-2/elections-2014/

Oct 10 – Carolina Thread “Fall Into the Thread”

One Week To Fall Into The Thread on October 10th!

 Oct 14 Webinar: Advocating with Compassion & NC General Assembly 101

Oct 14 Webinar: Advocating with Compassion & NC General Assembly 101

 Oct 16 – Charlotte Moral Movies – Disruption

Oct 16 More Moral Movies – Watch and Discuss “Disruption”

 Oct 18 – Rocky Face Mountain Outing

Oct 18 Outing: Exploring Rocky Face Mountain Recreation Area

Oct 20 – Citizens’ United and Corporate Personhood

Oct 20 Program: Citizens’ United and Corporate Personhood

Oct 22 – Sierra Club monthly meeting

Oct 22 Sierra Club Monthly Meeting – Members Trip Highlights

Oct 22 – “Coal Ash In Our Water: An Unfinished Business” Town Hall Meeting


Oct 23 – Early Voting Begins

More information at http://charlottesierraclub.org/political-2/elections-2014/

Oct 26 – Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Sierra Club: Relive the Legacy of the Appalachian Trail

Oct 26 – Relive the Legacy of the Appalachian Trail

Oct 27 – Charlotte City Council vote on the future of area water quality (PCCO)

For more information on this issue see:

Public Hearing Comments on the Proposed Weakened Stormwater Ordinance

Come Tell Charlotte City Council to Protect Our Streams, Lakes, and Rivers

81% of Total Mecklenburg Watershed Considered Unfit – Support Strong Stormwater Regulations!

Charlotte Stormwater Pollution – Harming Our Lakes, Streams and Rivers

Sept 22: Charlotte Public Hearing – The Future of Area Water Quality

Will Developers Take Control of Our Water Quality?

Will Charlotte Continue to Weaken Storm Water Controls?

Nov 1 – Early Voting Ends

More information at http://charlottesierraclub.org/political-2/elections-2014/

Nov 1 – Catawba Wildflower Glen Service Outing

More information at: http://www.meetup.com/Charlotte-Sierra-Club/events/210703312/

Nov 4 – General Election Day

More information at http://charlottesierraclub.org/political-2/elections-2014/

Nov 21 – NC Climate Justice Summit

More information at NC Climate Justice Summit, Nov 21-23

Sierra Club To Launch Get-Out-The-Vote Effort in North Carolina

We all need to do our part to Get Out the Vote!


Sierra Club To Launch Get-Out-The-Vote Effort in North Carolina

Nearly One Million Micro-targeted Voters to be Reached


September 26, 2014

Contact: Trey Pollard (202) 495-3058 or trey.pollard@sierraclub.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Next month, the Sierra Club, through its Voter Education Fund – the grassroots organization’s 527 operation – will target almost one million voters in a massive get-out-the-vote campaign in North Carolina.

“It’s critically important that North Carolina voters know how to participate during the state’s early voting period and on Election Day. This effort will make sure they are aware of the process and know how and when they can have their voices heard,” said Melissa Williams, the Sierra Club’s Political Director.

The campaign will use academically-proven behavioral science practices in get-out-the-vote messaging to mobilize voters. Sierra Club Voter Education Fund will conduct an experiment testing the current best practice against a message focused on vote history and changes to voting laws. One micro-targeted mailer will arrive at the homes of voters during the early voting period, between October 23 and November 1. A second micro-targeted mailer will hit mailboxes the weekend before the election. The targeted voters have high support scores but moderate to low turnout scores.

This is the second statewide get-out-the-vote campaign the Sierra Club Voter Education Fund will launch next month. For more details on the other campaign – targeting Colorado voters – click here.


Take Action: Continue the 50-Year Legacy of the Wilderness Act / Say “No” to Bills That Benefit Big Polluters

Celebrate this beautiful Friday and take some action on these issues!

Take Action: Continue the 50-Year Legacy of the Wilderness Act
Take Action: Continue the 50-Year Legacy of the Wilderness Act
In March, Congress passed a wilderness bill for the first time in five years. While we applaud this effort, several other pieces of legislation with strong bipartisan support are languishing in the House and the Senate. It is long past time to pass these public lands bills to protect the lands and waters that make America so special.

Take Action
Tell your members of Congress to pass these bills and protect wilderness today!


Take Action: Say “No” to Bills That Benefit Big Polluters
Take Action: Say
This week, House Republican leadership will again vote on a package of energy-related bills that benefit big polluters. Under the banner of “energy innovation” and “consumer protection,” these bills would actually gut commonsense environmental and public-health protections.

Take Action
Tell your member of Congress to oppose this package of attacks on the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.