Dec 3, 2014 · 3 minutes

Calling gay people a “health risk.” Pushing climate change denial in schoolsSupporting controversial Voter ID lawsDoubling down on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

These are among the uglier stances taken by the American Legislative Executive Council or ALEC. Despite its ultraconservative bonafides, until very recently the group counted sustainability-focused technology firms like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook as members. But there's one major Silicon Valley company that, in the face of backlash among many tech observers and its own peers, refuses to cut ties with the group: eBay. And while ALEC's past should be reason enough to withdraw support, new documents show the group is only getting started.

According to materials posted in advance of today's States & Nation Policy Summit, ALEC is planning to make the most out of last month's midterm elections, which gave control of Congress and numerous state legislatures over to the Republicans. The proposals up for discussion at the Summit include legislation that would increase offshore drilling, soften protections for endangered species, weaken enforcement of the Clean Air Act and give states the option to reject President Obama's new limitations on carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power plants. Taken together, these proposals disempower the EPA to such a degree that ALEC might as well call for the Agency to be disbanded altogether. Oh wait, they call for that too.

While some powerful libertarian voices in Silicon Valley may welcome the destruction of the EPA, there's a huge contingent in tech that not only believes the environment is worth protecting, but also that perhaps the federal government should play a role in that protection. Observe what happened after Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us group, in an ill-advised appeal for immigration reform, sided with some strongly anti-environmental interests. Silicon Valley heavies like Elon Musk, David Sacks, and Vinod Khosla were quick to condemn the move, making Zuckerberg and his friends think twice about putting planet Earth up for collateral, even in return for a good cause.

That's also why so many tech companies, particularly those that claim to support sustainability efforts, had little choice but to abandon ultraconservative ALEC. So why hasn't eBay done the same?

Abby Smith, eBay's Senior Director of Corporate Communications, offered this as an explanation:

It should be noted that it’s a business reality that some trade associations and other external groups that advocate for non-environment-related polices that are material to the success of eBay Inc. and our customers may at times hold and/or advocate for positions that conflict with our strategy with respect to climate and energy. As these conflicts are identified, our team of internal stakeholders meets regularly to assess the best approach for resolving these issues.
As I wrote when the uproar over eBay's membership hit a fever pitch, this defense fails to satisfy on a number of levels. Unlike Yelp, eBay has no compelling business reason that I can ascertain for standing beside ALEC -- and even Yelp, which supported ALEC for its work on anti-SLAPP lawsuit legislation, has distanced itself from the group. Granted, ALEC's technology task force does make some vague claims about supporting ecommerce, but that didn't stop ecommerce giant Amazon from withdrawing its support either.

And then there's the curious case of Pierre Omidyar, eBay's chairman. While he's no stranger to the kind of free market solutions pushed by ALEC, he has also put his support behind efforts to strike down the kind of climate change denial ALEC has been known to peddle.

With ALEC aggressively preparing for Republican majorities in Washington and in state legislatures across the country, its influence will be felt more than it has in years. And with little to defend its continued support for the group, even as the bulk of its tech peers have withdrawn theirs, eBay may feel the ALEC backlash more strongly than ever.

[Illustration by Brad Jonas]