As companies cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) following a campaign led by ColorOfChange, Fox News has defended the conservative legislation organization, accusing ColorOfChange of using “fascist tactics” and inviting ALEC supporters and officials on to defend their actions. ALEC, an organization that drafts model bills for conservative state lawmakers, has pushed for controversial “Stand Your Ground” and voter ID laws across the country.
ALEC Creates Controversial Model Legislation Used By “Conservative State Lawmakers”
ALEC Is “Funded Mostly By Corporations And Conservative Foundations” And “Exists To Bring Business-Friendly State Lawmakers Together With Lobbyists For Corporations.” From Fortune magazine:
[ALEC], founded in 1973 and funded mostly by corporations and conservative foundations, exists to bring business-friendly state lawmakers together with lobbyists for corporations, including AT&T (T), Exxon Mobil (XOM), Wal-Mart (WMT), and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). It drafts model bills related to its goals of free markets and limited government. Issues that ALEC has influenced include Arizona's anti-immigration law, tort reform in Mississippi, and the opposition to Net neutrality.
In the 2009 legislative session, by ALEC's reckoning, state lawmakers introduced 826 bills the group conceived -- 115 of which made it into law. That's quite a record, and it's going to get stronger. One overlooked aspect of the Republican resurgence has been its revolution at the state level. The GOP picked up more than 700 seats in state legislatures and now controls 25 of those bodies outright, from 14 before November. [Fortune, 1/10/11]
“Close To 1,000” Bills For “Conservative State Lawmakers” Based On ALEC Model Legislation Are Introduced Each Year Throughout The U.S. From ALEC's website:
More than 30 years ago, a small group of state legislators and conservative policy advocates met in Chicago to implement a vision:
A nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty. Their vision and initiative resulted in the creation of a voluntary membership association for people who believed that government closest to the people was fundamentally more effective, more just, and a better guarantor of freedom than the distant, bloated federal government in Washington, D.C.
To date, ALEC's Task Forces have considered, written and approved hundreds of model bills on a wide range of issues, model legislation that will frame the debate today and far into the future. Each year, close to 1,000 bills, based at least in part on ALEC Model Legislation, are introduced in the states. Of these, an average of 20 percent become law. [ALEC.org, accessed 4/17/12]
ALEC Has Pushed For Controversial Voter ID Laws And “Stand Your Ground” Laws
Mother Jones: ALEC Promoting Voter ID Legislation That Is " 'Discriminatory' Against Blacks And Hispanics." In an April 10 article, Mother Jones noted that the voter ID laws drafted and promoted by ALEC were described as " 'discriminatory' against blacks and Hispanics." From Mother Jones:
Activists have singled out ALEC's so-called voter ID bills in their campaign against the 38-year-old organization cofounded by conservative leaders Paul Weyrich and Lou Barnett. ColorOfChange has slammed voter ID legislation, which claims to crack down on voter fraud, as “discriminatory” against blacks and Hispanics. “No longer is the black vote suppressed through violence, intimidation and literary tests,” ColorOfChange has said in a statement. “It's now suppressed through laws that make it burdensome and difficult for many black folks to vote.” [Mother Jones, 4/10/12]
Center For American Progress: ALEC Is Drafting Legislation “To Make It Harder For Citizens To Vote.” In an April 4 issue brief, the Center for American Progress noted that ALEC-drafted legislation is being passed “to make it harder for citizens to vote.” From the Center for American Progress:
Talk about turning back the clock! At its best, America has utilized the federal legislative process to augment voting rights. Constitutional amendments such as the 12th, 14th, 15th, 17th, 19th, 23rd, and 26th have steadily improved the system by which our elections take place while expanding the pool of Americans eligible to participate. Yet in 2011, more than 30 state legislatures considered legislation to make it harder for citizens to vote, with over a dozen of those states succeeding in passing these bills. Anti-voting legislation appears to be continuing unabated so far in 2012.
Unfortunately, the rapid spread of these proposals in states as different as Florida and Wisconsin is not occurring by accident. Instead, many of these laws are being drafted and spread through corporate-backed entities such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, as uncovered in a previous Center for American Progress investigative report. Detailed in that report, ALEC charges corporations such as Koch Industries Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and The Coca-Cola Co. a fee and gives them access to members of state legislatures. Under ALEC's auspices, legislators, corporate representatives, and ALEC officials work together to draft model legislation. As ALEC spokesperson Michael Bowman told NPR, this system is especially effective because “you have legislators who will ask questions much more freely at our meetings because they are not under the eyes of the press, the eyes of the voters.” [Center for American Progress, 4/10/12]
The Nation: ALEC Is “Determined To Ensure That Citizens Do Not Have The Final Say On Who Is Elected President.” In a July 12, 2011, article in The Nation, John Nichols noted that, through its promotion of voter ID laws, ALEC is “determined to ensure that citizens do not have the final say on who is elected president.” From The Nation:
ALEC is also determined to ensure that citizens do not have the final say on who is elected president, an agenda outlined in such documents as its Resolution in Support of the Electoral College and its ardent opposition to the National Popular Vote project (which it has warned would “nationalize elections and unravel Federalism” ). A related resolution encourages state legislatures to formally complain that an interstate compact to defer to the popular will “would allow a candidate with a plurality--however small--to become President.” While ALEC worries about the candidate with the most votes winning, it has no problem with policies that increase the likelihood that the candidate with the most money and corporate support will prevail. Its 2009 Resolution Supporting Citizen Involvement in Elections bluntly “opposes all efforts to limit [citizen] involvement by limiting campaign contributions.” A resolution approved last year expresses support for the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. ALEC even opposes moves to give shareholders a say in the expenditure of corporate funds on campaigning. At the same time, ALEC urges legislators to fight the “federal takeover” of state election procedures, objecting in particular to universal standards for voting procedures. [The Nation, 7/12/11]
For more on ALEC's influence in pushing for voter ID laws, click here.
Center For Justice & Democracy's Joanne Doroshow: ALEC's “Stand Your Ground” Laws Are “A Direct Assault On Crime Victims Themselves.” In an April 13 Reuters post, Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School, wrote that ALEC-promoted “Stand Your Ground” laws are “at the heart of the controversy over George Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin” and described the laws as “a direct assault on crime victims” that include a “chilling measure that confers absolute civil immunity on perpetrators who successfully avoid arrest and prosecution.” From Doroshow's post:
The principal trigger, of course, has been the taint surrounding ALEC'S “Stand Your Ground” laws, the statute at the heart of the controversy over George Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin. The business downside of associating with an organization pushing a law that seemingly turns a criminal perpetrator into a lawful executioner has apparently become too much for these companies, thanks to pressure from the civil rights and consumer community. That's a good thing. But as we focus on Stand Your Ground laws, we shouldn't lose sight of the breadth of ALEC's damage around the country. In fact, some of the wider harm can be found in other parts of this very statute. This law does not just protect perpetrators. It is also a direct assault on crime victims themselves. Specifically, buried in ALEC's Stand Your Ground laws - on the books in some form in about half the states in the U.S. - is a chilling measure that confers absolute civil immunity on perpetrators who successfully avoid arrest and prosecution under this law, stripping crime victims of their legal rights and access to the courts. This is important, because often in cases where the criminal justice system fails, families turn to the civil courts for help by bringing a civil suit against the perpetrators directly. This law blatantly tears away their constitutional rights. [Reuters, 4/13/12]
For more on how ALEC has pushed “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country, click here.
ColorOfChange Launched Campaign To Encourage Companies To Cut Ties With ALEC
ColorOfChange Initiated Campaign To Limit Influence Of ALEC's “Undemocratic, Unjust” Voter ID Legislation That “Weaken[s] The Black Vote.” In December 2011, ColorOfChange, a group that “exists to strengthen Black America's political voice” launched a campaign to "[s]top corporate-funded voter suppression" by encouraging American corporations to cut ties with ALEC. From ColorOfChange:
For years, the right wing has been trying to stop Black people, other people of color, young people, and the elderly from voting -- and now some of America's biggest companies are helping them do it. These companies have helped pass discriminatory voter ID legislation by funding a right wing policy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
ALEC's voter ID laws are undemocratic, unjust and part of a longstanding right wing agenda to weaken the Black vote. Major companies that rely on business from Black folks shouldn't be involved in suppressing our vote. Please join us in demanding that these companies stop funding ALEC. [ColorOfChange.org, 12/8/11; ColorOfChange.org, accessed 4/17/12]
LA Times: Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods “Cut Ties” To ALEC Shortly AfterColorOfChange's Campaign Launched. From an April 6 Los Angeles Times article:
Coca-Cola Co. and Kraft Foods Inc. bowed to consumer pressure this week and cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative lobbying group that has recently backed controversial voter ID and so-called “stand your ground” laws.
Within hours of advocacy group Color Of Change launching a boycott against Coca-Cola for its participation on ALEC's Private Enterprise Board, the soft drink giant issued a statement saying that it had “elected to discontinue its membership.” [Los Angeles Times, 4/6/12]
New Republic: ColorOfChange's Pressure Campaign “Seems To Have Worked.” From an April 15 New Republic article:
In the past, progressives have responded by trying to create a “counter-ALEC,” a network of progressive and moderate state legislators, though they've never quite reached the necessary scale. (I served on the board of one such counter-ALEC, the Center for Policy Alternatives, which dissolved in 2008.) And they've tried various means to expose ALEC's operations to scrutiny, publicizing its role in drafting and promoting model legislation at the state level, and its funding by the now-notorious Koch brothers. This time, progressives tried a new tactic, encouraging a boycott of the mainstream corporations that fund ALEC. And it seems to have worked: Coca-Cola, Kraft, Wendy's, and several other large corporations on ALEC's “Private Enterprise Board” announced they would drop their support of the organization. [The New Republic, 4/15/12]
As Companies Have Fled, Fox Has Defended ALEC
Fox's Kilmeade Claimed Liberal Groups Are “Shaking Down” ALEC-Affiliated Companies “For Trying To Be Successful Without Unions.” On April 16, Fox News' Fox & Friends hosted Republican Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch to attack “liberal groups” that co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed are “shaking down” companies tied to ALEC, claiming the groups oppose those companies' efforts to “be successful without unions.” Kilmeade later asked, “Where is the outrage?” over the campaign. During the segment, onscreen text characterized the campaign against ALEC as “bullying businesses.” From Fox & Friends:
[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/16/12]
Fox's O'Reilly Asked If “Fascist” ColorOfChange Campaign Against ALEC Is “Cross[ing] Into The Blackmail Range.” On the April 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly introduced a segment on ALEC by claiming that “far-left groups” are “threatening economic pain in order to intimidate American companies.” O'Reilly hosted Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham to further attack ColorOfChange, asking if the effort “crosses into the blackmail range” and accusing ColorOfChange of using “fascist tactics.” From The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: You know, this crew has been around for a while, this ColorOfChange business. They attacked Glenn Beck. They are very, very vicious in what they do. But I'm wondering if it crosses into the blackmail range.
INGRAHAM: Well, I don't think it probably does cross into that range, Bill. But just to paint the picture for people. ColorOfChange, of course, gets huge influxes of money from George Soros, ties to SEIU, ties to MoveOn.org. You know these kind of -- all these tentacles that connect these organizations. Staff, personnel, co-founders, and so forth. What they're designed to do is much what Media Matters is designed to do -- this other group -- is to basically shut down conservative speech.
Later in the segment, O'Reilly accused ColorOfChange of using “fascist tactics.” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/12/12]
Fox's Kelly Hosted ALEC Communications Director To Defend ALEC-Backed Legislation. On the April 5 edition of Fox News' America Live, host Megyn Kelly interviewed ALEC communications director Kaitlyn Buss. During the segment, Kelly didn't ask about the controversial legislation drafted and supported by the organization, instead reinforcing Buss' “point” that ALEC is “not a partisan organization.” During the interview, Kelly offered Buss a chance to defend ALEC's record, asking questions such as, “They don't like your push for voter ID laws, and my question to you is what do you think of that?” and, “The group that is going after you and your supporters has come out and said that quote, 'many leading organizations have left your organization,' and I quote, 'as it moves to the extreme right.' Your response?” [Fox News, America Live, 4/6/12, via Media Matters]