Eight Major Corporations Divest From ALEC

Protesting ALEC(Photo: suenosdeuomi / Flickr)Corporations across the country are dropping their ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) like hotcakes. Mars, the company that makes Skittles, and the Arizona Public Service Company, the state’s biggest electric utility, are the latest divestments.

They join Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, Intuit and Wendy’s in what Marge Baker, executive vice president for policy and program at People For the American Way, called, “a recognition on the part of these companies that the ALEC agenda doesn’t fit the image that they want to portray with their customers.”

ALEC, which partners lawmakers with corporations to write model legislation, has been linked to the creation of the infamous “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida, under which George Zimmerman avoided being charged with a crime for more than a month after shooting Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. At the time of his death, Martin was carrying a bag of the Mars company’s Skittles.

ALEC also created the model legislation for SB1070, Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill, voter suppression laws that would have made it more difficult for minorities and low-income people to vote and the Wisconsin anti-union law, which so angered progressives that they occupied the state capitol for several weeks.

ALEC’s response to the rash of companies fleeing its connections was to continue to hide its real agenda, says People For the American Way. In a statement, ALEC claimed:

ALEC is an organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and the vigorous exchange of ideas between the public and private sector to develop state based solutions. Today, we find ourselves the focus of a well-funded, expertly coordinated intimidation campaign.

For years, ALEC has partnered with legislators to research and develop better, more effective public policies – legislation that creates a more transparent, accountable government, policies that place a priority on free enterprise and consumer choice, and tax policies that are fair, simple and that spur the kind of competitiveness that puts Americans back to work.

But in reality, say ALEC-watchers, the council has done exactly the opposite – disenfranchised voters, increased anti-immigrant sentiment and overall pushed an “extreme reactionary agenda,” according to Brendan Fischer, a law fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy.

ALEC’s claim to be working toward, “a more transparent, accountable government” is also at odds with how the council function in reality, says Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorofChange.

“I think that the reason why ALEC has been so successful is because it does its work behind the scenes; it’s not really a public-facing company,” said Robinson. “To the extent that these companies benefit from having a relationship with a behind-the-scenes vehicle, it’s important that corporations that want to associate are no longer able to do it behind the scenes.”

Each company that leaves ALEC takes with it at least the $25,000 it pays the council in annual dues. The next companies that are being targeted with pressure to leave ALEC are AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and State Farm insurance, said Robinson.