In the face of mounting pressure from progressive activists and its own corporate sponsors, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing group funded by corporations like ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, announced today that it will shut down a task force that deals with “non-economic issues,” like voter suppression efforts and “stand your ground” gun laws. ALEC came under intense scrutiny over the past few weeks after progressive groups like Color of Change began pressuring corporations that fund ALEC to drop their support. The Center for American Progress also released a report highlighting the right-wing group’s role in pushing voter suppression efforts around the country. As a result, 10 companies, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Kraft, have pulled out from ALEC.
In response to the exodus of corporate funding, ALEC made the decision today to scale back its operations and focus on “economic” matters. The group released the following statement:
We are eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy. The remaining budgetary and economic issues will be reassigned.
This is a monumental move. The now defunct ALEC task force helped usher countless reactionary laws through state legislatures. Most prominent among these are “stand your ground” gun laws that came to the forefront in Florida after Trayvon Martin’s tragic death, and new voter ID laws that could suppress millions across the country, predominantly poor people and minorities.
Yet, while today’s announcement is an important victory, it does not change the fact that ALEC will continue to push corporate-friendly conservative economic legislation. Here is a short list of ostensibly economic measures ALEC has supported in the past:
- State union-busting measures
- Repealing minimum wage laws
- Privatizing public lands
- Repealing capital gains taxes
- Repealing the estate tax
- Fighting any efforts to address manmade climate change while touting “the many benefits of atmospheric CO2 enrichment”
- Repealing paid sick day laws around the country
- Requiring a super-majority to raise taxes
- Pushing rules that deem that kids eating rat poison is an “acceptable risk”
Color of Change calls ALEC’s move a “PR stunt“:
ALEC’s latest statement is nothing more than a PR stunt aimed at diverting attention from its agenda, which has done serious damage to our communities. To simply say they are stopping non-economic work does not provide justice to the millions of Americas whose lives are impacted by these dangerous and discriminatory laws courtesy of ALEC and its corporate backers. It’s clear that major corporations were in bed with an institution that has worked against basic American values such as the right to vote. Now that these companies are aware of what they’ve supported, what will they do about it? If ALEC’s corporate supporters will not hold the institution accountable for the damage it has caused nationwide, then the ColorOfChange community will hold them accountable.
“The American public has wised up to ALEC’s misguided and secretive attempts to co-opt state legislators for corporate profit,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “In folding its Public Safety and Elections Task Force, ALEC is abandoning under pressure the most controversial part of its agenda; that’s an important victory for the American public.”