As of today [4/6], three major companies—Pepsi, Coke and Kraft—have pulled out of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the state law-crafting body that acts as a sorta SXSW for conservative legislators and corporate executives nationally to share ultra-conservative ideas and convert them into state laws. Most of those ideas and laws add up to infringement on citizens’ rights by attacking labor unions, public education and environmental regulations. ALEC is responsible for spreading the scourge of Stand Your Ground gun laws, which helped keep Trayvon Martin’s killer out of jail, and democracy-stunting voter ID laws.
A campaign spearheaded by Color of Change (whose executive director Rashad Robinson sits on Applied Research Center’s board), and involving Campus Progress, the Center for Media and Democracy and many other civil rights groups, has been petitioning the major corporations who’ve bought in to ALEC to bow out of the organization over the voter ID legislation it has modeled, which places barriers in front of people wanting to participate in democracy at the polls. The result is Pepsi, Coke and Kraft are no longer associating themselves with ALEC, though none of them have cited the unfairness or moral wrongness of ALEC’s voter ID bill.
Does simply disassociating themselves absolve them, or is a formal denunciation called for from companies deciding to pull out of ALEC?
Pepsi, which was an ALEC member for over 10 years, allowed their membership to lapse in January and didn’t renew because of “budgetary reasons,” as ALEC understands it. In a letter to Color of Change in January, a Pepsi vice-president wrote:
As we discussed, PepsiCo has been a member of the bipartisan group of state legislators ALEC, for the last decade, where we largely focused on issues raised by discriminatory taxes. We were not involved in the discussion on voter registration, nor do we serve on the Task Force which reviewed the proposals. In addition, PepsiCo pays the minimal, standard membership fee to ALEC and thus does not have influence over issues in which we do not actively engage. … Please note, at this point in time, PepsiCo is not a member of ALEC, as of 2012, as our membership expires each year.
When Coca-Cola decided to drop out of ALEC, within hours of Color of Change launching an online boycott petition against them, they made the following statement:
“The Coca-Cola Company has elected to discontinue its membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). 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.”
Kraft soon followed, making this statement:
“ALEC covers numerous issues but our involvement has been strictly limited to discussions about economic growth and development, transportation and tax policy. We did not participate in meetings or conversations related to other issues.”
These break-ups are worthy of applause, especially from corporations as vast and financially powerful as Coke, Pepsi and Kraft. But it’s still worth investigating the reasons why they broke up with ALEC, and if those reasons deserve the same kind of ovation.
Coke and Pepsi said they were only in ALEC for the work around “discriminatory” food and beverage taxes — taxes we assume are aimed at consumption of unhealthy corn-syrup laden soda and junk food. It would have been nice if they cited the discriminatory impact of voter ID laws.
Kraft said they were in ALEC for the discussion around economic growth and development. Voting rights protectors’ could cheer more loudly if Kraft had mentioned that they were for democracy growth and development, and how ALEC’s voter ID model legislation fights against that.
Suzanne Merkelson at Republic Report wrote: “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.”
I agree. If a civil rights group catches a corporate executive at a Citizens Council meeting, they’d need a little more than for the person to simply excuse himself from the circle saying he was only there to hear about how to improve neighborhood real estate values. They would need him to denounce the group and what they stand for.
Coke, Pepsi and Kraft, and every other company involved in ALEC, should go on the record saying they do not support laws like voter ID, which lead to the death of democracy, and Stand Your Ground laws that led to the death of Trayvon Martin and countless others. And they shouldn’t stop there. They should then unpack their positions on “discriminatory” soda taxes and economic growth and ask themselves if those positions support the kinds of systems that make ALEC possible.