April 5, 2012

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo Drop ALEC Memberships Thanks To Pressure On ‘Shoot First’ Laws

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have both dropped their memberships in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the shadowy, ideologically conservative organization behind “Stand Your Ground” and other controversial state laws, including a ban on living wages, school and prison privatization, and disenfranchising voter ID requirements. ALEC links corporations with friendly state lawmakers and drafts model legislation to be pushed in state legislatures. “Stand Your Ground” and its implication in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin have pushed ALEC and its member corporations, including not only Coca-Cola and Pepsi, but also Wal-Mart, ExxonMobil, FedEx, Johnson & Johnson, and others, into the spotlight.

Advocates cited the facts of the Trayvon Martin case to draw attention to ALEC, whose work remains quite secretive given its enormous influence nationwide.  Last week, Republic Report organized a letter with Color of Change, Rebuild The Dream, and Center for Media and Democracy asking corporations that are members of the ALEC Private Enterprise Board to withdraw from ALEC.  NPR reports that the Coca-Cola and PepsiCo cases are “part of a much broader campaign to spotlight companies that sell products to a public that might object to hard-line conservative policies”:

Coca-Cola’s announcement came hours after a civil rights group, ColorOfChange.org, launched an online drive calling on Coca-Cola to stop underwriting the ALEC agenda on voter ID laws in several states….

PepsiCo, another soft drink giant, belonged to ALEC for 10 years. In January, a company vice president told ColorOfChange that it wouldn’t renew for 2012.

He didn’t say it was because of ALEC’s stance on voter ID laws. But in an email to ColorOfChange, he said that issue would be considered if PepsiCo ever weighs rejoining ALEC.

Last year, Campus Progress launched an effort to press companies to quit ALEC in the wake of the disclosure that ALEC had drafted the Voter ID law. Color Of Change soon picked up the banner and has been engaged for months in efforts to convince companies to leave ALEC. In the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, many other groups are working on this effort.

One other target is ALEC board member Kraft Foods. NPR reported that on Wednesday Kraft said it was keeping its membership in ALEC: “A spokeswoman for Kraft said its only concern at ALEC are business related and have nothing to do with stand your ground or voter ID laws.”  But a company’s claim that its only motivation for joining ALEC is corporate self-interest does not absolve it of responsibility for the organization’s efforts to advance other destructive policies.