Letter to Pfizer to leave ALEC

We are writing to ask Pfizer to end its affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC.

Over the last few months, numerous companies, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo, have ended their ALEC membership due to concerns about the harmful role ALEC has played in our democratic process. This includes concerns with ALEC’s policy stands, its secretive practices, and its failure to report lobbying activities and misuse of tax-exempt status to conduct extensive lobbying efforts. This last concern has generated at least three separate complaints to the Internal Revenue Service that contributions to ALEC should not in fact be treated as tax deductible.

The public knows that the ALEC operation—which brings state legislators and corporate lobbyists behind closed doors to discuss proposed legislation and share lavish dinners—threatens our democracy. The public is asking Pfizer to stop participating in this scheme. Among Pfizer’s pharmaceutical peers, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Sanofi have all announced they have left or were leaving ALEC in recent years.

In September 2014, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt stated the following on The Diane Rehm Show regarding ALEC’s denial of climate science: “We should not be aligned with such people – they’re just, they’re just literally lying.” Since Google’s departure, Facebook, Yahoo, Yelp, International Paper, Occidental Petroleum, News Corp, SAP America, AOL, eBay, and Northrop Grumman have all announced they also have left or were leaving ALEC. This recent exodus of corporations was in part due to concerns over ALEC’s extreme views and agenda. That extreme agenda includes denying the science of climate change, blocking access to affordable healthcare, defunding public services, privatizing public schools, curtailing workers’ rights, and opposing net neutrality.

We recognize Pfizer’s strong policy in regards to addressing climate change. Pfizer states the following on its website: “Pfizer believes that climate change is a global environmental and public health issue that requires more action on the part of industry, the government and the public.” Citing research by the World Health Organization, Pfizer lists the potential health impacts of climate change including increasing rates of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, diarrheal disease, malaria, dengue and others.

,p>Yet, during ALEC’s August 2014 annual convention in Dallas, a meeting Pfizer sponsored, ALEC officers and corporate lobbyists held training seminars to promote the denial of climate change science and to teach legislators how to block legislation that encourages clean energy solutions. One of these trainings was led by the Heartland Institute, an organization Pfizer claims it stopped supporting in 2012 due to Heartland’s denial of climate science.

 

Pfizer has also been supportive of the Affordable Care Act, publicly stating the legislation “takes important first steps toward addressing many of the problems facing the U.S. health care system.” Despite this, ALEC has worked to undermine and repeal the law. Pfizer has also been a leader in helping Americans stop smoking, yet Pfizer continues to participate in ALEC, which is sponsored and supported by tobacco companies Reynolds American and Altria.

Pfizer has not heeded requests, including a shareholder proposal at the company’s 2014 annual meeting, to reevaluate your membership in ALEC, despite the fact that ALEC’s agenda is severely out of step with Pfizer’s corporate culture and may bring significant reputational and business risk to the company. The fact that more than 100 companies have decided to leave ALEC underscores the reputational risks companies face when their business interests and goals do not align with a third party’s programs and policy objectives.

The undersigned organizations have varying opinions on these issues, but we all know that Pfizer’s membership in ALEC undermines the company’s publicly stated corporate social responsibility to public health and safety, especially around climate change and healthcare reform.

We, the undersigned organizations, believe that in the spirit of your organization’s priorities and in the spirit of what is best for the American public: it is time for Pfizer to end its membership in ALEC.