BUSINESS
04/05/2012 12:41 pm ET | Updated Apr 10, 2012

Coca-Cola, Facing Activist Campaign, Cuts Ties With ALEC Over Voter ID Laws

Voter ID laws are quickly becoming a hot-button issue -- and Coca-Cola is jumping back from the heat.

The soft-drink company has severed its ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a conservative lobbying group that drafts legislation and sends it out to lawmakers. ALEC's fingerprints have been found on bills and laws in a number of states, and the group's opponents have grown resistant to what they call ALEC's efforts to shape the legislative agenda in a way that harms minority and low-income voters.

One such effort, say ALEC's opponents, involves the voter ID bills currently under consideration in about two dozen states. Most of these bills require voters to show up to the polls with certain forms of photo identification, but progressives say their ultimate effect is to keep poor voters and voters of color -- groups that tend to vote Democratic -- from getting to the ballot box.

On Wednesday, the advocacy group Color of Change launched a campaign encouraging people to call Coca-Cola -- one of the companies that sits on ALEC's elite Private Enterprise Board -- and register their concern. In its announcement, Color of Change cited ALEC's efforts to get voter ID laws passed.

Five hours later, The Washington Examiner reports, Coca-Cola announced that it was ending its relationship with ALEC, saying that its "involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business."

Some onlookers, like Frances Martel of Mediaite, have pointed out that Coca-Cola didn't explicitly say it was parting ways with ALEC as a result of Color of Change's efforts -- as, for example, Web host GoDaddy did a few months ago when it reversed its position on the Stop Online Piracy Act after witnessing a dramatic drop in business. Still, most outlets seem to have drawn that conclusion based on the timing of Coca-Cola's announcement.

Other companies on ALEC's board include Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, Kraft Foods, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and Koch Industries.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article followed a Washington Examiner article in referring to Color of Change's campaign as a "boycott." Color of Change has clarified to HuffPost that it was not calling for a boycott of Coca-Cola.

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