Good to see that the America-hating folks at American Legislative Exchange Council are getting a little press. For far too long, ALEC has been able to operate in secret, manipulating the legislative process with their mounds of corporate-donated cash.
Two of America’s best-known companies, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, have dropped their memberships in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a low-profile conservative organization behind the national proliferation of “stand your ground” gun laws.
ALEC promotes business-friendly legislation in state capitols and drafts model bills for state legislatures to adopt. They range from little-noticed pro-business bills to more controversial measures, including voter-identification laws and stand your ground laws based on the Florida statute. About two-dozen states now have such laws. Florida’s stand your ground law has been cited in the slaying of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen who was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman on Feb. 26.
Until recently, ALEC was best known for its volumes of pro-business legislation: bills to weaken labor unions, as in Wisconsin, to privatize government operations and to reduce regulation.
But this new anti-ALEC campaign comes at a time when some investors have already been pushing for more transparency on corporate political activities.
Tim Smith is a vice president with Walden Asset Management, which does what it calls socially responsible investing. He says corporate boards and top management are paying closer attention now.
“They’re scrutinizing their trade association memberships, their relationships with controversial institutes,” said Smith. “And certainly I think that companies are scrutinizing their ALEC relationship more carefully, too.”
But certainly not every corporation: On Wednesday, another well-known company, Kraft Foods, said it was keeping its membership in ALEC.
A spokeswoman for Kraft said its only concerns at ALEC are business related and have nothing to do with stand your ground or voter ID laws.
(click here to continue reading Boycotts Hitting Group Behind ‘Stand Your Ground’ Gun Laws : NPR.)
Publicly traded companies should be very wary of donating to such partisan organizations – shareholders might not be sanguine. Non-profits such as Susan G Komen For the Cure of Republican Women ought to tread carefully as well. In these days of social media, it won’t take much to bring a firestorm of bad publicity. Of course, some of ALEC’s core corporate sponsors don’t give a shit about such things. Corporations like the Charles Koch Foundation, Richard Mellon Scaife’s Allegheny Foundation, the Coors family Castle Rock Foundation. But I’d be surprised if Johnson & Johnson, FedEx, Visa, Amazon.com, GlaxoSmithKline, Bayer, State Farm Insurance, Walgreens and others wouldn’t get a little nervous if a campaign against them got organized.
Coca-Cola’s retraction came in the Examiner’s “Secrets” blog. Blogger Paul Bedard’s interpretation of the facts comes with a strong ideological bias, but the facts are clear: The good guys won.
By contrast, Wal-Mart told the Examiner:
Our membership in any organization does not affirm our agreement with each policy created by the broader group. Wal-Mart has a long history of supporting voter rights, and we continue to be a strong proponent of this issue. In fact, Wal-Mart was an active supporter in 2006 of the renewal of the Voting Rights Act of… One of Wal-Mart’s basic beliefs is respect for the individual, and Wal-Mart will continue to stand with all Americans in ensuring our right to vote. Not good enough. If you support people who are attacking the right to vote, financially and with your reputation, then you are supporting injustice.
Attention Sellers: This could affect your bottom line in a big way. There’s a large majority in this country that feels disenfranchised from the political process — and is. They’ve been, in the crude words of bar patrons everywhere, “screwed, blued, and tattooed.” They’ve lost their jobs, or their wages have stagnated, while organizations like ALEC strip them of organizing rights and the chance for a job at a living wage.
They’ve also been disenfranchised by voter laws like the ones ALEC supports, and by a money-driven, corporate political process. But that disenfranchised majority has enormous economic power — and it’s learning how to use it. One of our most effective tools for responding to the power of corporate money is by cutting off the source of that money.
(click here to continue reading Good Guys Win: With ALEC, Things Go Better Without Coke | Crooks and Liars.)
Some other things ALEC is busy passing: banning living wages, privatizing schools, privatizing prisons, crippling collective bargaining.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the most powerful corporate front group you’ve never heard of. The organization, funded mostly by large corporations, writes model legislation and then sends these bills to state legislators across the country. It has successfully passed scores of laws on various issues.
ALEC has come under scrutiny lately for writing and helping to pass “Stand Your Ground” laws, which allow for an expansive definition of self defense that lets individuals use deadly force if they feel threatened. It is a law like this in Florida which may allow Trayvon Martin’s killer to go free. The National Rifle Association, which is partly funded by the gun industry, worked closely with ALEC to pass the law. (It also sponsors ALEC’s conferences.)
But ALEC’s “Stand Your Ground” is far from the only deadly law that this corporate front group has pushed. ALEC’s network of laws have endangered every area of American life, from the air we breathe to the water we drink to the education our children receive in our schools. Here are five despicable laws that ALEC has helped pass in states nationwide:
(click here to continue reading The Top Five Most Despicable Laws Passed By Corporate Front Group ALEC.)
The Department of Justice overturned at least a couple of ALEC’s voter ID laws, including in Texas:
The Department of Justice has blocked the Texas voter ID law. Of the 8 states where American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) inspired voter ID laws were enacted, two have now been struck down for discrimination under the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Under the act, 16 states that have a history of discrimination must get federal approval before changing voting laws. Texas changed their law in May of 2011 to require the following ID: driver’s license, a military identification card, a birth certificate with a photo, a current U.S. passport, or a concealed handgun permit.
The Obama administration’s Department of Justice blocked Texas’ voter ID law because even conservative data showed it discriminated against Hispanics:
“Even using the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver’s license or a personal identification card,” wrote Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, in a letter to Keith Ingram, director of elections for the Texas Secretary of State. So what made the voter ID laws such a priority?
Republicans pushed ALEC inspired voter ID laws in over 33 states and passed them in states like South Carolina (whose voter ID law was also struck down by the DOJ for discrimination), Kansas, Alabama, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin. This legislation is meant to give Republicans a much needed edge, allowing military ID and concealed handgun permits to suffice for ID, while cutting out student IDs in some states. In fact, the NRA was the corporate co-chair of ALEC Public Safety and Elections in 2011.
(click here to continue reading Another ALEC Law Bites the Dust: DOJ Kills Texas Voter ID Law.)
Muted Voice of Angry Fear
Governor Christie, the GOP Angry Man in NJ, is a fan of ALEC:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie denies any connection with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), but a Star-Ledger investigation finds plenty of evidence to the contrary, particularly when it comes to Christie’s union-busting, privatizing education agenda.
First off: At least three bills, one executive order and one agency rule accomplish the same goals set out by ALEC using the same specific policies. In eight passages contained in those documents, New Jersey initiatives and ALEC proposals line up almost word for word. Two other Republican bills not pushed by the governor’s office are nearly identical to ALEC models. This includes policies on teacher tenure, pay, and hiring and firing; easing training requirements for charter school teachers; waivers of environmental regulations that businesses don’t like; and more.
Beyond the similar legislation and executive actions: […] Christie’s then-chief of staff and former health commissioner were involved in an ALEC policy seminar in Trenton in December. Legislative liaisons inside the governor’s office have mined ALEC for advice on budgetary matters, Medicaid changes and privatizing government services, according to e-mail records, beginning in the earliest days of Christie’s governorship and as recently as December.
(click here to continue reading Daily Kos: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie denies connection to ALEC while pushing its agenda.)
One last point, so I don’t have to look this up again. Here are the corporations who I will think twice about doing business with because they are sponsors of the radical GOP agenda, and I don’t want to give them my money (and I won’t own any stock from these corporations either):
- American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity
- American Electric Power
- American Federation for Children
- Atmos Energy
- BlueCross Blue Shield of Lousiana
- BlueCross BlueShield Association
- Chesapeake Energy
- Energy Transfer
- Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- Freepont-McMoran Copper & Gold
- Genesee & Wyoming Inc.
- Gulf States Toyota
- Harris Deville & Associates
- International Paper
- Jacobs Entertainment
- Johnson & Johnson
- Kansas City Southern
- Koch Industries
- Kraft Foods
- LouisDreyfus Commodities
- Louisiana Chemical Association
- Louisiana Railroads Association
- Louisiana Realtors
- Louisiana Seafood
- Lumina Foundation
- McMoran Exploration
- National Rifle Association
- Norfolk Southern
- QEP Resources
- Reynolds American
- Society of Louisiana CPAs
- Southern Strategy Group
- Spectra Energy
- State Farm
- State Policy Network
- Takeda Pharmaceutical
- The Capitol Group
- TogetherRX Access
- Union Pacific
- Walton Family Foundation