In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, the national spotlight has finally been turned on a secretive organization that helped put in place the "shoot first" legislation that has obstructed efforts to arrest and prosecute Martin's killer. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. After years of working behind the scenes, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is being noticed by more and more Americans, and the public doesn't much like what it sees.
As a People For the American Way report put it last year, ALEC is "the voice of corporate special interests in state legislatures" across the country. Whether it's an anti-union, anti-environment, anti-immigrant or anti-consumer issue, ALEC has been busily pushing pre-written, far-right legislation to pro-corporate lawmakers across the country. Those lawmakers, in turn, have been turning bills adopted by ALEC into law -- sometimes even forgetting to remove ALEC's name from the text before it's introduced.
Two issues that have attracted particular criticism after being pushed by ALEC are the reckless "stand your ground bills," the law at issue in Trayvon Martin's tragic death, and the slate of voter suppression laws that, by one estimate, will create unnecessary obstacles for up to five million eligible voters.
ALEC's entire agenda is deeply troubling, but these two pillars of its work stand out because both have a hugely disproportionate, and hugely devastating, effect on African Americans, Latinos and young people.
It's probably that toxic brew of secrecy, extremism and racial divisiveness that has led three companies -- Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Kraft -- to wisely leave ALEC this week after being prodded along by grassroots activists organized by Color of Change. Presumably, all three companies have realized that continuing to underwrite ALEC's work isn't just wrong, it's bad for business. They're right.
That's why other companies, whether they're concerned about fairness or just their carefully crafted brand identities, should follow their lead.
ALEC lists the members of its Private Enterprise Board on its website. These companies range from pharmaceutical companies like Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline, to consumer products creators like Johnson & Johnson and Diageo (which distributes alcoholic beverages like Crown Royal, Johnny Walker, Smirnoff and Guinness.) It's a diverse set of companies representing a diverse set of industries -- perhaps the only thing these organizations have in common is that none of them should continue to associate with ALEC.
Building on groundwork that has already been laid, we're reaching out to these companies to let them know that Americans don't want their money to fund the extreme agenda that ALEC is pushing across the country.
Working in collaboration with organizations that have taken a leadership role on these issues, including Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause, Progress Now, and Color of Change, People For the American Way will continue our efforts to hold ALEC accountable for the toxic agenda being waged at the expense of the American people. Corporations who are members of ALEC need to do exactly the same thing -- by quitting.
Follow Michael B. Keegan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/peoplefor