The Coca-Cola Company announced last week it is withdrawing from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, which has been accused by progressive organizations of working “to disenfranchise African Americans, Latinos, students, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. Shortly after Coke made its announcement, Pepsi, Kraft and Intuit followed suit.
Color of Change, which led the campaign calling on Coca-Cola to put an end to its presence in ALEC, said in a press release, “We reached out to Coca-Cola last year and have been in dialogue with them since then to convey the concerns of more than 85,000 Color Of Change members who called on major corporations to stop supporting ALEC. Hundreds of Color Of Change members began making phone calls to Coca-Cola… and the company listened to their voices.”
The Washington Examiner said Coca-Cola caved to Democratic Party boycott threats, reporting that “officials from Color of Change, kicked off a boycott of Coke and other financial backers of the American Legislative Exchange Council which supports new voter ID laws.”
The Examiner added that in a company statement Coca-Cola said, “Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business. We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our Company and industry.”
Coca-Cola also makes political contributions, over $1.3 million in 2011, that went to Democrats (about 38 percent) and Republicans (about 56 percent) at the federal and state levels.
According to the Center for Media and Democracy, “the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin has exposed the [National Rifle Association] and ALEC’s deadly network of money and influence, which they use to push for more state laws like Florida’s, NRA, ALEC, & ‘SHOOT FIRST’ LAWS (.pdf) which may shield Trayvon’s killer from prosecution.”
The Center’s data also show that in 2011 the list of ALEC’s corporate board included AT&T, Bayer Corporation, Glaxo Smith Kline, Koch Companies Public Sector and Walmart.
ALEC also has at least one elected official from every state who serves as a “state chairman” and whose “duties shall include recruiting new members, working to ensure introduction of model legislation, suggesting task force membership, establishing state steering committees, planning issue events, and working with the Private Enterprise State Chairman to raise and oversee expenditures of legislative ’scholarship’ funds.”
Of the 75 state representatives and senators who served as state chairmen, only one member was a Democrat. Florida’s chairman is state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City.
According to the Center, Florida Sen. Durell Peaden, R-Pensacola, and Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, “joined forces with former NRA President and FL lobbyist Marion Hammer to push through the 2005 ‘Shoot First’ bill, the first law of its kind in the country. In the last election cycle alone, the NRA spent $729,863 to influence FL politicians.”
The Stand Your Ground “law is very clear,” Baxley said last week.
“It defends you if you’re under a violent attack. If you’re the victim, you get to decide, and you get to make a response, and the overall effect has been much safer. I would hate to do anything that diminishes our citizens’ rights to protect themsleves from harm,” Baxley added.
Open Secrets, which investigates money in politics, calls ALEC an “ideologically conservative consortium of state legislators and business interests known to draft model legislation for state lawmakers across the country.”
According to Open Secrets, ALEC’s 23 corporate board members have spent at least $400 million on lobbying expenditures from 2009 through 2011.
“Much of these companies’ lobbying efforts have targeted the health care reform law signed by President Barack Obama last year, as well as environmental measures, such as bills that would block the [Environmental Protection Agency] from regulating greenhouse gases,” adds Open Secrets.
Scot Kersgaard contributed to this article.