We’ll take a break from the big questions of the day (Will the U.S. go to war? Will Anthony Weiner’s crotch continue as a news story), to talk about something nice for a change – the awesome, student-led campaign that just forced student loan lender Sallie Mae to abandon the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), making it the 50th or so corporate member to do so! Students deserve all the credit here. Notes PR Watch,
In August, at ALEC's Annual Meeting in Chicago, organizers with the Student Labor Action Project and the United States Students Association gathered nearly 14,000 signatures on a petition demanding Sallie Mae drop its ALEC membership. A few months earlier, in May, at least 200 student activists protested outside Sallie Mae’s annual shareholder meeting, demanding that it end its relationship with ALEC and increase transparency about its other lobbying and political activities.…
With the departure of Sallie Mae, at least 50 corporations and six nonprofits have publicly cut ties to ALEC since the Center for Media and Democracy launched ALECexposed.org in 2011 (although Wells Fargo has recently begun funding the group again).
And then … there’s Yelp! What to say about Yelp!? A head-scratcher, for sure.
Yelp! has been subjected to relentless protests for recently joining ALEC. Yelp!, which is involved with ALEC’s anti-consumer, anti-victim, “tort reform” task force, says it believes in ALEC because of all the good ALEC might do pushing anti-SLAPP lawsuit legislation.
If you’re unaware of the term “SLAPP,” here’s Wiki’s brief definition: “A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition." On it's face, sounds like a worthy goal. But so does ridding countries of chemical weapons. Sometimes, the “solution” can make things worse.
Indeed, anti-SLAPP legislation is just as likely to be helpful as harmful to everyday people. For example, there’s one version circulating in the U.S. Senate which was introduced by U.S. Senator Jon Kyl, one of that bodies’ clearest and uncompromising “tort reform” Senators. Any wonder why that is? Or why this bill is strongly opposed by public interest groups? Because it’s overly broad and susceptible to corporate abuse by defendants in cases having nothing to do with the exercise of First Amendment rights, that’s why. In other words, some anti-SLAPP laws can be easily turned on their heads by corporate bullies, interfering with access to the civil justice system for worthy, legitimate and important cases. Ergo, ALEC’s support.
But also, talk about a corporate bully. Here’s Business Week today:
Attorney Julian McMillan says Yelp sued him [emphasis added] in retaliation after he won his own legal claim against the company and began recruiting other businesses with similar grievances. “This is their way of swatting down a gnat,” says McMillan, who runs a solo law firm focusing on bankruptcies. “They’re trying to get me to spend money because they want to give pause to the next business that sues them.”
McMillan took Yelp to small-claims court earlier this year, alleging that the website didn’t fully deliver on ads he bought from the company. In April, the judge ruled in McMillan’s favor and ordered Yelp to reimburse him $2,700. Last month, days before an appeals court would overturn that ruling, Yelp sued McMillan over charges he planted fake reviews of his own law firm. Bloomberg BNA first reported on the lawsuit last month.…
There’s a touch of irony to the allegation of Yelp suing McMillan as a form of retribution. On Friday, protestors affiliated with MoveOn demonstrated in front of Yelp’s San Francisco headquarters. The cause: Yelp’s support for legislation that would bar businesses from using lawsuits to bully people who post negative reviews about them online.
Actually, it’s pretty clear that MoveOn’s demonstration was focused more on Yelp! (via ALEC)'s support for Stand Your Ground, Voter ID and a host of other bad laws, which has already led 50 some companies to head for the hills when it comes to ALEC. But we’ll take it.