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Wednesday, October 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Comcast leaves conservative ‘think tank’ behind voter ID, stand-your-ground laws

Comcast announced Monday it is increasing internet speeds for Spokane customers. (Gene J. Puskar / AP)
Comcast announced Monday it is increasing internet speeds for Spokane customers. (Gene J. Puskar / AP)
By Bob Fernandez Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA – Comcast Corp. has pulled out of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council that critics say is a “corporate bill mill” for state lawmakers by drafting model legislation, such as those for stand-your-ground and voter-ID laws.

ALEC also opposes “net neutrality,” which aligns politically with Comcast in state capitals.

Comcast disclosed the severed relationship recently during discussions on a shareholder proposal seeking to force the global company to be more transparent about its grassroots and state-level lobbying. On Wednesday, Comcast shareholders voted down the proposal.

Comcast confirmed Friday that it’s no longer a member of ALEC. A spokeswoman declined additional comment but said that it withdrew in late 2018.

The latest bad publicity swept over ALEC when conservative writer David Horowitz spoke at ALEC’s conference in New Orleans last year. On Twitter, he referred to Black Lives Matter as a “racist organization” and repeated the characterization in the speech, according to a video of the speech.

ALEC was not immediately available for comment. But last year it removed Horowitz’s speech from its web site and ceased promoting it, saying in a statement “the comments were inconsistent with the manner in which speeches are offered at ALEC.”

“We were very happy to hear that Comcast withdrew from ALEC and we think that it’s a great first step in aligning their memberships with their stated corporate values of respect and acting with integrity,” Kate Monahan, shareholder-engagement manager for Friends Fiduciary Corp., said on Friday. Friends Fiduciary, a Quaker organization, was the lead organization backing greater Comcast lobbying disclosures.

David Cohen, one of Comcast’s top executives, is a big fundraiser for Democrats. He recently held a fundraiser in his Philadelphia home for former vice president Joe Biden. But Comcast also targets Republicans with lobbying and political contributions.

ALEC says that it’s “comprised of nearly one-quarter of the country’s state legislators and stakeholders from across the policy spectrum.”

Verizon Communications Inc., one of the nation’s largest wireless carriers that competes with Comcast with its FIOS television and internet services, also left ALEC in 2018.

“Our company has no tolerance for racist, white supremacist or sexist comment or ideals,” Verizon spokesperson Richard Young told The Intercept at the time.

Based in Arlington, Va., ALEC had revenues of $10.4 million in 2017, its latest available online tax documents show.“ In its tax filing with the IRS, ALEC calls itself a ”think tank for state-based public policy.“

The Center for Media and Democracy, a non-profit investigative news organization in Wisconsin, has published stories on ALEC since 2011, initially based on leaked documents. The group posts its research and stories online here.

With an ALEC membership, ”Comcast got legislators behind closed doors,“ David Armiak, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy, said on Friday. ”ALEC would hold two meetings a year when state legislators from around the country came to fancy hotels and would meet“ with Comcast and other companies.

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