April 9, 2012

Breaking: Bill Gates’ Foundation Withdraws Support For ALEC

Breaking: Bill Gates' Foundation Withdraws Support For ALECIn recent weeks, Republic Report joined a coalition of other groups to demand that companies withdraw affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a front group that helps lobbyists pass pro-corporate legislation in states across the country. [See our letter to ALEC board members here]

Republic Report’s Suzanne Merkelson covered how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a charity set up by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, supports ALEC financially. Now, Roll Call is reporting that the Foundation is withdrawing support for ALEC:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today became the latest backer to withdraw financial support for the American Legislative Exchange Council. A foundation spokesman told Roll Call that it does not plan to make future grants to the conservative nonprofit, which has come under fire from progressive activists for its support of voter identification laws and other contentious measures.

Why did the foundation fund ALEC in the first place? It’s likely the group gave funds to ALEC as part of a larger effort by Microsoft-linked groups to promote K-12 virtual schools, a movement that is likely to benefit Microsoft as privatized charters adopt more technology in the classroom.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation joins Kraft, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Intuit Inc. in withdrawing from ALEC in recent weeks. Notably, some corporate interests, including the drug company lobby group PhRMA and Koch Industries, have refused to back away from ALEC.

We’re still waiting to hear from other ALEC-linked corporations. We recently visited the lobbying office of GlaxoSmithKline to make sure they received our letter.

ALEC has been around for years promoting laws that benefit large powerful corporate interests. State laws that promote prison privatization, criminalize municipal telecom competition, and outlaw hikes in the minimum wage have been linked to ALEC. The recent controversy was kicked off after it was revealed that the gun lobby worked closely with ALEC to promote the “Shoot First” law that will likely allow the killer of Trayvon Martin to avoid prosecution.

RELATED: Meet the ALEC staffers who help corporations write our laws.