Progressives Put Spotlight on Shadowy Conservative Group
You’ve probably never heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), but one of its biggest accomplishments has been in the news lately: so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws that encourage people like Trayvon Martin’s killer George Zimmerman to shoot first and ask questions later. ALEC is also responsible for the nationwide conservative campaign to suppress votes — particularly if those votes happen to come from students, communities of color, and others who might not be amenable to the agenda of conservatives or corporate special interests.
How does ALEC work?
ALEC allows its corporate sponsors to propose so-called model bills on a wide variety of issues. Are you a polluter and worried that too many people in a community might vote for tighter clean air rules? All you have to do is give ALEC some money and you can write one bill that will loosen existing rules on polluters and another one that will make it harder for people in that same community to vote in the first place. Win-win for corporate special interests. Lose-lose for that community — and our democracy.
Once corporations write their bills, then ALEC distributes them through its other members: state legislators across the country. These state legislators then dutifully introduce the bills, many of which then ultimately become law. Since Republicans took over multiple state legislatures in 2010, ALEC’s success rate has been particularly high.
Think state legislators wouldn’t just copy-paste bills written by corporations and other special interests? Think again. Earlier this year, a legislator in Florida introduced an ALEC bill but forgot to take out the ALEC preamble before doing so. Oops.
How is ALEC working to suppress the vote?
Model legislation proposed by ALEC has been a key factor in the wave of voter suppression laws both introduced and passed in the last year in states as diverse as Texas, Wisconsin, and Florida. Conservatives are using a variety of tactics to suppress the vote:
- Restrictive voter ID requirements (1 in 10 voters — more than 20 million Americans — lack such IDs)
- Residency restrictions, often used to intimidate students
- Dramatically curtailments of early voting
- Laws that game the electoral college votes in various states
- Laws that make it all but impossible for mass voter registration drives to occur
Taken together, these measures sweeping the states stand to disenfranchise millions of Americans.
For much, much more information on the nationwide conservative voter suppression campaign please check Voter Suppression 101, a new report released earlier this week by the Center for American Progress.
Progressives Fight Back, Win Huge Early Victories
Rashad Robinson of Color of Change, the group that lead more than 400 advertisers to boycott Glenn Beck, had a clear and simple message for ALEC’s corporate sponsors this week:
“You can’t come for black folks’ money by day and try to take away our vote by night.”
On Wednesday morning, Color of Change sprung into action with a campaign pressuring Coca-Cola to stop funding ALEC. Within just hours, the beverage giant bailed on ALEC. Thursday morning, it was revealed the PepsiCo was also leaving ALEC. Last night, Kraft Foods announced that it too was leaving the group, even though less than 24 hours earlier it had said it was standing pat. And just this afternoon, software maker Intuit, best known for its TurboTax progam, announced its relationship with ALEC was also no more.
Following these impressive victories against the conservative voter suppression machine, Color of Change plans to announce new corporate targets next week.
IN ONE SENTENCE: Reforms to make voting easier were working and it’s clear that the conservative campaign to suppress the vote has nothing to do with the non-problem of voter fraud and everything to do with preventing millions of Americans from casting ballots this fall.
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