In recent years, right-wing activist David Horowitz has enjoyed broad influence in the Republican Party. Horowitz is known for his acidic commentary and advocacy, describing all Palestinians as “Nazis,” smearing former President Barack Obama as a secret Muslim, and claiming that the anti-lynching memorial in Alabama is an example of “anti-white racism.”
His extremist brand of politics, however, is finally turning into a liability for his GOP allies. On Wednesday, former Rep. Ron DeSantis, the GOP nominee for governor of Florida, ducked questions from reporters about his regular appearances at Horowitz-organized donor retreats.
Now, Verizon is cutting ties with an influential business alliance, the American Legislative Exchange Council, over the group’s decision to host Horowitz as a featured speaker at the ALEC summit in New Orleans last month.
“Our company has no tolerance for racist, white supremacist or sexist comment or ideals.”
“Our company has no tolerance for racist, white supremacist or sexist comment or ideals,” Verizon spokesperson Richard Young said in a statement to The Intercept.
The decision is a blow to ALEC, which has counted the telecommunications giant as a major donor for three decades. The relationship between Verizon and ALEC goes back to 1988, when Verizon lobbyist Ronald Scheberle served as the chair of ALEC’s board.
ALEC serves as a platform for corporate lobbyists to work with legislators to devise business-friendly policy ideas. The bills, known as model legislation, are then introduced in state legislatures around the country — sometimes word-for-word. The result is a raft of state and local legislation, frequently pushed through with Republican sponsorship and support.
Verizon has long depended on ALEC to advance its interests. ALEC helped write and pass a host of state-level bills to ban municipal broadband services, a key strategy for private-sector internet service providers such as Verizon and AT&T to snuff out competition. Over the last year, ALEC went on the offensive against state-based rules to enshrine so-called net neutrality protections to prevent internet service providers from limiting the bandwidth of some content — another Verizon policy goal.
However, the close affiliation with Horowitz — who has used his Horowitz Freedom Center and a network of affiliated website to launch bigoted campaigns — has proven too much for Verizon.
Horowitz sponsors Frontpagemag.com, a website that depicts Muslim migrants as carriers of infectious disease and predators with a “violent lust for ‘white’ women.” His nonprofit foundation, the Horowitz Freedom Center, spends about $6 million a year promoting a variety of political efforts designed to promote Horowitz’s particular style of politics, which leans heavily into scapegoating Muslims, African-Americans, immigrants, and other minority groups as an existential threat to the American way.
Horowitz also uses his nonprofit’s considerable funding to spread hate internationally. As The Intercept reported, the Horowitz foundation may have violated Internal Revenue Service rules by providing campaign contributions to the political party of the renowned Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders.
Verizon’s decision to leave ALEC came as it faced increasing scrutiny. In late August, 79 organizations, including good government, civil rights, and environmental groups wrote to Verizon and other ALEC funders, highlighting the speech by Horowitz and calling on them to end their support for ALEC.
In the letter, the groups pointed out that Horowitz used his platform at ALEC to support his bigoted agenda. According to the letter, Horowitz criticized the Supreme Court case that legalized marriage equality as an example of a federal precedent that state laws should be able to overturn. At the event, according to the letter, Horowitz reportedly spoke on a panel during which he defended President Donald Trump calling a woman a “pig” and suggested the Constitution’s three-fifths compromise was not about black people.
“Make no mistake, your continued financial support of ALEC is an endorsement of this dangerous vision for our country,” the letter said. Verizon, which has taken pains the rebrand itself as a forward-looking business that embraces diversity and multicultural concerns, apparently took note.