After months of protests by student groups, SLM Corporation (the student loan company commonly known as Sallie Mae) acknowledged Saturday that it has dropped its membership in the conservative, corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). According to the Center for Media and Democracy, Sallie Mae is the 50th corporation to abandon ALEC since the group has become toxic for its controversial model legislation.
ALEC, a non-profit organization that brings conservative state legislatures together with wealthy corporations, is the nation’s leading clearinghouse for pro-corporate state legislation. Its members have written dangerous state laws, most famously the Stand Your Ground Law, which enabled Trayvon Martin’s shooter George Zimmerman to initially walk free because it allows the use of deadly force in self-defense.
ALEC has also pushed voter suppression laws (which it has since vowed to drop), plans to reduce or eliminate income taxes, attacks on state minimum wage laws, and rollbacks of renewable energy standards. In several states, ALEC promoted a bill to require schools to teach climate change denial.
But given ALEC’s work in favor of privatizing K-12 and higher education, thousands of students signed an online petition encouraging Sallie Mae — which manages or services more than $200 billion in education loans — urging the company to drop its support of the group.
A Sallie Mae senior vice president told the News Journal of Wilmington, DE, that while it had joined ALEC in 2012 to support the company’s efforts to collect unpaid debts on behalf of states and municipalities, the decision was made to leave when “the noise level was distracting from the original business purpose.”