The list of major corporations severing ties with right-wing public policy group American Legislative Exchange Council continues to grow with Thursday's announcement that General Motors and Walgreen Co. have dropped their memberships, according to reports.
ALEC, which engineered or supported controversial “stand your ground" gun laws and sweeping voter ID requirements that threaten to disenfranchise minority voters, has come under increasing scrutiny by civil rights organizations since the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in February highlighted how the group strayed from its original pro-business agenda.
“We routinely evaluate our support for a variety of organizations,” said Greg Martin, a GM spokesman, according to Bloomberg. “As such, we have decided to discontinue our support and funding of ALEC.”
“We recently informed ALEC that, effective immediately, Walgreen Co. will not be renewing its membership in their organization,” said James Graham, a spokesman for the drug store chain.
In recent weeks, Best Buy and CVS Caremark also cut ties with ALEC. A CVS spokeswoman said on July 10 that the company had closely been following issues surrounding ALEC and "have heard from numerous stakeholders expressing their views."
“As a result, after careful consideration of the available information, CVS Caremark has discontinued its membership in ALEC,” a spokeswoman told Bloomberg Businessweek.
News of GM's and Walgreen's departures comes as ALEC holds its annual meeting in Salt Lake City, where on Wednesday a group of activist organizations including Alliance for a Better Utah, Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause and People for the American Way released a 45-page report detailing "the recent history of ALEC's corruptive influence in the Utah legislature."
"The ALEC agenda, focused on privatization, often puts corporate profit ahead of the public interest and sees states’ general funds as an economic resource to enrich corporate bottom lines,” the report reads. “… It is a corporate sponsored agenda that does not serve the public interest or the taxpayers.”
An ALEC spokeswoman called the actions against the group and its corporate sponsors a “corporate intimidation and bully campaign," telling Bloomberg in recent weeks that the campaign's are “politics at its worst and should be ignored.” She said membership in ALEC was up 20 percent over last year.
Civil rights groups on Thursday applauded the latest departures.
"Walgreens' and GM's recent announcements that they have cut ties with ALEC is further proof that everyday people working together to hold corporations accountable can achieve tremendous change," Rashad Robinson, the executive director of ColorOfChange.org, which has been among ALEC’s most powerful and vocal detractors, said in a statement.
The number of major corporation to drop ALEC in recent months has grown to 30, including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Kraft Foods.
Robinson and others have said corporate support for ALEC has led to an assault on minority voting rights in the form of restrictive Voter ID laws.
"The ColorOfChange community applauds these companies' willingness to end their relationships with this right-wing policy group that has worked to suppress the black vote," Robinson said. "More and more companies are getting the message that they cannot in good conscience market products to our communities while handing over customers' dollars to an organization that suppresses the rights and endangers the safety of people of color."
After the Trayvon Martin killing by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who police said at first was shielded from arrest by Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, Martin’s supporters and civil rights organizations rallied against the laws and ALEC. After public outcry, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder 44 days after the slaying. Gov. Rick Scott (R) empanelled a special task-force to review the law and to make recommendations.
But even before Martin's killing, groups had been rallying against ALEC for its role in restrictive voting laws.
Becky Bond, political director of CREDO Action, an activist group, said in a statement that CREDO members flooded Walgreen with phone calls blasting the company for its affiliation with ALEC.
"CREDO Action members believe strongly in the rights of all eligible voters to cast a ballot that counts," Bond said. "That's why nearly 600 CREDO members who are also Walgreens customers hit the phones to tell the company that it is unacceptable to support voter suppression. We applaud Walgreens for doing the right thing for its customers and our country."