ALEC Smartens Up

The group says it will no longer promote controversial legislation like voter ID and gun laws.

Posted: 04/18/2012 08:00 AM EDT
Stand Your Ground, 2012 Presidential Election, ColorOfChange, Mitt Romney, voting rights, ALEC, Ben Jealous, voter ID, Al Sharpton, NAACP

Corporations may not be people, as GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney once infamously declared, but one thing they have in common is a distaste for anyone or thing messing with their money. It’s a lesson that the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, has learned the hard way, after the exodus of several corporate members pressured by consumers to end their membership in the organization based on its controversial role in crafting voter ID and "Stand Your Ground" laws.

 

On Tuesday the organization announced that it would dismantle its Public Safety and Elections task force and would be “redoubling our efforts on the economic front.”

 

“While we recognize there are other critical, non-economic issues that are vitally important to millions of Americans, we believe we must concentrate on initiatives that spur competitiveness and innovation and put more Americans back to work,” the group said in a statement.

 

The announcement is the result of campaigns led by advocacy groups like ColorOfChange.org that forced major corporations that pay thousands of dollars per year to support ALEC’s operations to leave the organization. ALEC initially called it an “intimidation campaign” but ultimately caved because, like corporations and people, it needs money, too.

 

“While this is a step in the right direction, it does not undo the harm created by the 'Stand Your Ground' laws and the voter suppression laws which ALEC influenced state legislators to pass,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, who heads the National Action Network. “We are hopeful that ALEC will maintain their current stance of only dealing with issues affecting the economy, NAN will continue to monitor ALEC and we ask that our corporate sponsors do the same.”

 

NAACP President Ben Jealous also lamented the damage already done.

 

“This year, because of ALEC, millions of voters who had been eligible to vote in 2008 will be denied access to the ballot box. We may never know how many families will be denied justice because of the ‘stand your ground’ laws that continue to put communities in danger or how many families will be torn apart under repressive anti-immigration laws,” he said.

 

Color of Change remains skeptical, calling the move “nothing more than a PR stunt aimed at diverting attention from [ALEC’s] agenda, which has done serious damage to our communities.”

 

Rashad Robinson, ColorOfChange’s executive director, in an appearance on MSNBC’s The Ed Show Tuesday night, likened the role ALEC has already played in crafting gun and voting rights laws to an oil spill and expressed doubt that the organization intends to refocus its agenda when it comes to influencing legislation.

 

“The laws that they’ve worked to pass all around the country are still in place; people are still dealing with them. So essentially they’ve went out and basically spilled oil in the water and said well we’re not going to spill anymore oil, but we’re also not going to clean it up,” he said.

 

Robinson said that his group and its partners, including Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy, would continue to pressure state legislators and ALEC, as well as its remaining members and those that have left the group.

 

“We’re going to be watching. ColorOfChange is not going away. We were definitely David in this David and Goliath struggle and we will continue to raise the voices of everyday people,” he said. “So for the Krafts and the Cokes and the Pepsis, we commended them today for making the right decision, but that does not mean that we will not be vigilant in monitoring their relationships with organizations like ALEC.”

 

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