March 23, 2012

Exposed: The Corporations Behind The Law That May Let Trayvon Martin’s Killer Go Free

Exposed: The Corporations Behind The Law That May Let Trayvon Martin's Killer Go FreeIt’s been widely reported today that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the shadowy corporate front group that unites state lawmakers with corporations to pass state laws favorable to corporate interests, helped pass the law that might allow Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, to escape prosecution. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground,” the law that might help Zimmerman to claim self-defense (despite evidence to the contrary) is just one of many state laws that is nearly identical to ALEC’s model Castle Doctrine Act. The Florida senator who introduced the law, Durell Peadon, was also a member of ALEC. The law passed in 2005.

According to the Center for Media and Democracy, 98 percent of ALEC’s revenues come from corporations, corporate trade groups, and corporate foundations. Each member pays annual fees of between $7,000 and $25,000. ALEC is also supplemented by direct grants. We don’t know all the details about all of ALEC’s funders and members. Here’s a partial list of what we do know about the corporations and foundations who helped fund the group that drafted the law that keeps Trayvon Martin’s killer free — and put more guns on our streets:

  • ALEC received $1.4 million in grants from ExxonMobil from 1998-2009.
  • It has also received grants from two Koch family-backed foundations: Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Claude R. Lambe Foundation.
  • ALEC has received grant money from the billionaire conservative and American Spectator publisher Richard Mellon Scaife‘s Allegheny Foundation and  the Coors family’s Castle Rock Foundation.
  • ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board members include executives from Bayer Corp., GlaxoSmithKline, Centerpoint360, Reynolds American, Wal-Mart Stores, Johnson & Johnson, PhRMA, American Bail Coalition, Kraft Foods, Inc., Pfizer Inc., DIAGEO, AT&T, Reed Elsevier, Inc., Peabody Energy, UPS, Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC, Altria Client Services, ExxonMobil, Salt River Project, and State Farm Insurance Co. Coca Cola also recently had an executive on ALEC’s board.
  • According to reporting by my colleague, Lee Fang, ALEC’s 38th Annual Meeting was funded by corporations including BP, Takeda Pharmaceutical, Allergan, Altria, Bayer, Chevron, Peabody, Shell, UnitedHealthcare, Visa, FedEx, Louisiana Seafood, UPS,, Chesapeake Energy, ConocoPhillips, Dow, Gulf States Toyota, International Paper, TimeWarner, Wellpoint, HP, Lilly, Merck, USAA, and Walgreens (the full list available here).

The first item in ALEC’s mission statement is:

… to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public.

Individual liberty is one thing when it comes to protecting your home or your children. It’s quite another when it means gunning down a teenager armed only with Skittles in his father’s neighborhood. ALEC is the same group behind laws that harm workers, health, and safety, and behind the “Voter ID” law that makes it harder for low-income people, communities of color, the disabled and elderly, and others to vote. Now we know ALEC wrote the law that might let Trayvon Martin’s killer walk free.  How much longer will the large corporations behind ALEC harm the communities in which they do business by funding the group’s reckless agenda?