After the 2010 elections, the American Legislative Exchange Council was arguably at the height of its power. Though it had been around since the 1970s (President George W. Bush is pictured at ALEC’s 2005 annual meeting above), Republican wins in statehouses across the nation that year gave the group an outsized influence in policymaking. Its model legislation covered everything from Stand Your Ground laws to new voter ID requirements and popped up everywhere.
But these few years of prominence seem to be catching up to ALEC as it has enthusiastically pursued its mission to, in the words of one liberal watchdog to the New York Times: “Bring together corporations and state legislators to draft profit-driven, anti-public-interest legislation.”
Starting in 2012, less than two years after ALEC allies seized power in state legislatures, the group’s corporate partners have undergone a mass exodus, at times for their own ideological reasons, other times under public pressure. And by some counts, more than two dozen companies have severed their ties.
That exodus has continued into this week, as Google chairman Eric Schmidt said Monday that his company would leave ALEC over climate change. Below is an exhaustive — but likely not comprehensive — list of the major businesses that have left the group and why.
GOOGLE, September 2014
“The facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring, and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place,” Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told NPR’s Diane Rehm in explaining the decision. “And so we should not be aligned with such people — they’re just, they’re just literally lying.”
MICROSOFT, August 2014
CNET linked Microsoft’s withdrawal to the company’s support of renewable energy projects, which would be at odds with ALEC’s environmental positions. The year before it left the group’s communications and technology task force, the software giant began investing in renewable energy projects, such as having one of its data centers powered by windmills.
VISA, December 2013
The credit-card company quietly dropped its membership, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, after a year of being lobbied by a “socially responsible” investment firm to reexamine its participation.
MERCK AND CO., September 2012
The pharmaceutical titan told the Star-Ledger that it was a combination of money and policy that drove its departure from the group.
“Merck reviews its memberships every fall to decide which will be retained for the upcoming calendar year based on budget constraints and policy priorities,” Merck spokeswoman Kelley Dougherty said. “As a result of this review, the company will not be renewing its membership for several organizations. ALEC is one of these groups.”
GENERAL MOTORS, July 2012
ALEC came under particularly scrutiny after the Trayvon Martin killing in 2012 because it has advanced Stand Your Ground legislation. Liberal groups started a coordinated campaign to pressure companies to drop their support. Dozens of companies did, though many, like GM, were not explicit in their announcements.
“We routinely evaluate our support for a variety of organizations,” Greg Martin, a GM spokesman, told Bloomberg. “As such, we have decided to discontinue our support and funding of ALEC.”
WALGREENS, July 2012
“We recently informed ALEC that effective immediately Walgreen Co. will not be renewing its membership in their organization,” James Graham, a Walgreens spokesman, told Bloomberg. The company’s departure also occurred amid the widespread public pressure to withdraw from ALEC.
WAL-MART, May 2012
Without getting specific, Wal-Mart explained that the group had gotten away from its founding “Jeffersonian principles of free markets,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
“We feel that the divide between these activities and our purpose as a business has become too wide,” Maggie Sans, the company’s vice president for public affairs, wrote in a letter explaining its departure.
AMAZON, May 2012
Amid that ongoing campaign to pressure groups out of ALEC, Amazon cited “public concerns” when announcing its decision to leave the group.
PROCTOR AND GAMBLE, April 2012
A company spokesperson was refreshingly frank while explaining why it was cutting ties with ALEC, according to Think Progress: It’s bad for business.
“Decisions about which memberships we retain are guided by budgetary considerations, value to the business and engagement on issues core to our ability to compete in the marketplace,” the spokesperson Elizabeth Ratchford, said. “The multinational corporation made the determination that ALEC does not help P&G compete for consumers’ loyalty and support.”
MCDONALDS, April 2012
The same principle apparently applied to the fast-food giant.
“While [we] were a member of ALEC in 2011, we evaluate all professional memberships annually and made the business decision not to renew in 2012,” spokeswoman Ashlee Yingling told Mother Jones.
KRAFT, April 2012
Kraft made clear that it had only been concerned with economic issues as ALEC attracted controversy for its gun control and voter ID legislation.
“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,” the company said. “Our membership in ALEC expires this spring and for a number of reasons, including limited resources, we have made the decision not to renew.”
COCA COLA, April 2012
Coke also stressed that it had had narrow interests in working with ALEC, according to Think Progress, implying that the group’s forays into other issues were not in its best interest.
“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,” the company said. “We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our Company and industry.”
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