Trayvon Martin case leads to corporate exodus from ALEC

George Zimmerman invoked the ALEC-supported 'Stand Your Ground' law to justify his killing of Trayvon Martin.

Last week, as George Zimmerman was being charged with second-degree murder for killing Trayvon Martin in Florida, big business began a quiet stampede away from the organization that is promoting “shoot-first” laws throughout the country.

The organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is a far-right policy incubator whose members include corporations, think tanks and lawmakers, who introduce its model bills simultaneously in statehouses nationwide. The proposed legislation ranges from industry-specific measures such as a bill vetoed last week by Gov. Mark Dayton limiting liability in asbestos injuries to the ideological, such as voter ID and shoot-first.

In total over the last two years Minnesota lawmakers have introduced some 60 bills identical or very similar to model legislation drafted by ALEC. Seven of Dayton’s 12 vetoes so far this year have been of ALEC-promulgated measures, including a shoot-first or Castle Doctrine bill.

ALEC has been in existence since 1973, but in the last year a handful of organizations including Common Cause, Parents United and the progressive Center for Media and Democracy have begun tracking its activities. It wasn’t until the high-profile Trayvon Martin case, however, that ALEC’s activities drew widespread attention.

Neighborhood Watch captain Zimmerman told police he thought he was justified in shooting the unarmed teen under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, a National Rifle Association-promoted act which states that “a person is justified in the use of deadly force” if “he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

In the wake of the shooting, a number of grassroots and civil-rights organizations began pushing ALEC’s corporate members, whose dues underwrite the group’s activities, to cut their ties. Companies pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to join; ALEC routinely pays for lawmakers, whose dues are just $50 a year, to travel to meetings at resorts where they are handed policy playbooks.  

Ten had resigned by end of week

By close of business Friday, the list of corporations and nonprofits dropping memberships in ALEC had lengthened to 10: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft Foods, Intuit, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Mars, Reed-Elsevier, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Arizona Public Service Co.

“We made the decision after considering the broad range of criticism being leveled at ALEC,” said a Reed Elsevier spokesman.

“At this point, we’ve decided that it’s not the right environment to continue working with them,” a Gates Foundation spokesman told Reuters. Separately, the foundation said it did not intend to support ALEC’s ideological work but had thought it was paying for distribution of its education reform research.

Even corporations no longer affiliated with the controversial arch-conservative policy incubator appeared to be trying to distance themselves. Ticketmaster last week sent a letter to the Center for Media and Democracy, which operates the website ALECexposed, “advising” the organization to “cease and desist from including Ticketmaster on your site” and threatening to sue for libel and defamation.

An exhaustive catalog of information on past and present ALEC members, the site listed Ticketmaster as a one of the corporations that was known to be a member in 2000 but was not currently.

By midweek, the normally secretive ALEC was swinging back. “Over the last 24 hours, ALEC has been inundated with letters of support from elected officials, community leaders and concerned citizens in response to the intimidation campaign launched by a coalition of extreme liberal activists committed to silencing anyone who disagrees with their agenda,” said Executive Director Ron Scheberle.   

Local group presses MN members

Common Cause Minnesota, meanwhile, called for ALEC’s local corporate members to follow suit. Minnesota members include 3M, UnitedHealth Group, Xcel Energy and Cargill. Update: After publication of this story, a Cargill spokeswoman informed MinnPost that Cargill is not and has never been a member of ALEC and doesn’t know why it was listed in a 1998 ALEC annual-meeting program, obtained by Common Cause, as a member and sponsor.

Other companies with deep ties to Minnesota and memberships in ALEC include Thomson Reuters, Comcast, Corrections Corporation of America, Time Warner and State Farm.

“It’s time for Minnesota legislators to quit promoting corporate special interests at the expense of middle-class families,” said Mike Dean, executive director. “As the country’s largest corporations end their relationships with this radical group, Minnesota corporations should too.”

Minnesota’s elected ALEC members, most of them GOP lawmakers, have been distancing themselves from the group ever since its efforts were first revealed by a variety of local organizations in the wake of the 2011 legislative session. Confronted about introducing a bill that is identical to an ALEC model or quite similar, local lawmakers have protested that they haven’t had the time or the money to attend the group’s gatherings or that they got the idea for the legislation elsewhere.

Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/16/2012 - 12:36 pm.

    I am cynical that ALEC or the goals exemplified in ALEC are going away. When the tool gets discredited, a new on is picked up.

    Do you really think, for example, that the kefluffel related to the CEO of Target’s support for Emmer really changed the CEO’s political outlook? No, I sincerely doubt it, and you should too.

    Just new, if not better, cover for the next time around.

    The goals remain the same, it’s the tools that will change.

  2. Submitted by Mark Kulda on 04/16/2012 - 11:40 am.

    Still contains incorrect reporting that should be corrected

    Once again, the writer incorrectly referred to four of the Dayton vetoes, all dealing with lawsuit reform, as being ALEC bills when they weren’t.

    The bills were an initiative of Minnesotans for Lawsuit Reform which had no input from ALEC whatsoever.

    To repeatedly make the same mistake calls into question the accuracy of the author’s information and whether or not she is being entirely objective.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/16/2012 - 01:39 pm.

      Just a coincidence?

      Bills drafted by Minensotans for Lawsuit Reform just happened to track ALEC model bills? I suppose it could happen, in some fantasy world.

      It would be interesting to know how closely MfLR’s membership tracks that of ALEC. We can’t find that out, however, because the “grassroots” organization Minnesotans for Lawsuit Reform gets pretty vague about exactly who its principals might be. We do, however, know that Mr. Kulda is registered as one of their lobbyists.

  3. Submitted by Ann Galloway on 04/16/2012 - 11:41 am.

    check which MN Legislators author or co-author ALEC bills

    I like it when articles lists the MN Legislators who author or co-author certain bills. You can read the bill and then compare it to ALEC Bills. Then you know which Legislators are representing corporations instead of the people.
    Some bills stick out.. Like the Voter ID, Castle Law, Charter School take over of Public schools.
    But it is nice to know which authors “wrote” those bills. Those Legislative Authors had to slap their name and the state on MN on those “model” bills. It is Shameful, and if I had a MN Legislator I would be calling their office and tell them to publically condemn A.L.E.C. and withdrawl their membership and to promise not to author or co-author any bills from the A.L.E.C. list.

  4. Submitted by Ann Galloway on 04/16/2012 - 11:46 am.

    we can’t end the money flow to ALEC

    but we can be aware of who the Legislators are that work for ALEC and we can vote them out of office.
    House of Representatives
    Rep. Bruce D. Anderson (R-19A), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member
    Rep. Paul Anderson (R-13A), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member[87]
    Rep. King Banaian (R – 15B), ALEC Member[88]
    Rep. Michael L. Beard (R-35A), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member[87]
    Rep. Mike Benson (R-30B), ALEC member[87]
    Rep. Matt Dean (R-52B)[18], ALEC International Relations Task Force Member[87]
    Rep. Connie Doepke (R-33B), ALEC Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force Member
    Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-28B)[18], ALEC Civil Justice Task Force Member[87]
    Rep. Sondra L. Erickson (R), ALEC Education Task Force Member[87]
    Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-36B), ALEC Education Task Force Member
    Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R – 16B), State Chairman,[20] International Relations Task Force Member,[87] attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting[89]
    Rep. Carol McFarlane (R-53B), ALEC Education Task Force Alternate
    Rep. Pam Myhra (R-40A), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member[87]
    Rep. Joyce Peppin (R-32A), ALEC member[87]
    Rep. Linda Runbeck (R-52A), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member[87]
    Rep. Ron Shimanski (R-18A), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force Member,[87] attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting[89]
    Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-18B), denies ALEC membership but says he offers ALEC bills[87]
    House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-32B), ALEC member but says he’s inactive[87]
    Senate
    Sen. Roger C. Chamberlain (R-53),[87] ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force Member
    Sen. Ted Daley (R-38), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force Member
    Sen. Chris Gerlach (R-37), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force[87]
    Sen. Gretchen Hoffman (R-10), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member
    Sen. John Howe (R-28), ALEC member[87]
    Sen. Gen Olson (R – 33), ALEC Education Task Force Member,[87] former State Chair[90]
    Former Sen. Patricia Pariseau (R-36), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member
    Sen. Mike Parry (R-26), ALEC Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force Member[87]

  5. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/16/2012 - 12:02 pm.

    Special interest groups write most legislation –

    it is a myth that legislators write legislation, for the most part.

    So ALEC’s boilerplate text for laws, distributed around the country to state legislators, is only ONE example of who is actually writing our laws.

    The state legislators in MN who presented bills written by ALEC, like good lap-dogs, come to the shame of distancing themselves from ALEC a little late in the game.

    Is it possible that our legislators could respond with a little skepticism when someone approaches them with a piece of canned legislation?

    A working boycott campaign against all corporations who give to extremist groups, right or left, would soon dry up significant financial resources for groups like ALEC. It is amazing that the Gates foundation was so ignorant of who they were supporting – don’t they do any research?

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/16/2012 - 12:57 pm.

    The Gates foundation?

    That one raised my eyebrow.

  7. Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 04/16/2012 - 02:46 pm.

    Watch for replacements

    Other groups will pop up to replace ALEC’s agenda. For example, Student’s First will probably be the one to take over ALEC’s privatization education agenda. Such wonderful, Orwellian names these groups have.

  8. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 04/16/2012 - 02:55 pm.

    What is called “lawsuit reform” here

    is called Tort Reform by the national Republican Party (and I am sure, by ALEC). One of their goals is to indemnify corporations from meaningful payouts when their products or practices significantly harm customers or employees. They plan to do it by capping awards at a low, corporate-approved level.

    The Gates Foundation may or may not have been aware of everything ALEC does, but it does support school reform in the same ways ALEC and all the far Right does — attack teachers and thereby the public school system, fire teachers and close schools, replace them with private charters and/or professional “managers” instead of educators and elected school boards.

  9. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 04/16/2012 - 03:00 pm.

    “Minnesotans for Lawsuit Reform”

    is an ALEC front group, or “alter ego.” All of these “tort reform” organizations are big business astroturf outfits created to lobby for legislation designed to prevent ordinary citizens from gaining access to the civil justice system when they are injured. They claim to be against “frivolous lawsuits” but from their perspective, any claim of injury by a human being is “frivolous.” Just as they portrayed the elderly lady who sustained third degree burns from McDonald’s coffee spilling on her. I agree with Mr. Rovick above who states that these corporations will simply find new tools to lobby for “reforms” that rob people of their rights.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/16/2012 - 05:16 pm.

      Oddly enough, the party of “personal responsibility” not only wants to remove public oversight of corporate misdeeds by dismantling government agencies, they also want to remove oversight via the private sector in the form of “tort reform”.

      Viola!!

      No responsibility at all !!

  10. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 04/16/2012 - 04:01 pm.

    Thank you, Beth and others at MinnPost

    for your articles describing the workings of ALEC here and nationally. And thanks to Governor Dayton and all the Democratic members of the Minnesota legislature who do everything they can to prevent ALEC’s harmful/anti-democratic legislation from taking effect while never losing their sense of humor or dedication to public service.

    Now we need an uprising of real Republicans who see what is going on and are upset with many in their party whose current policy is to serve the wants and wishes of our country’s largest corporations instead of the needs of their constituents.

  11. Submitted by Joe Musich on 04/16/2012 - 09:12 pm.

    Heathcare fool

    My healthcare dollars go to Alec ? I thought all the dollars went to my doctors ? What a fool I have been.

  12. Submitted by Daryl Hanson on 04/17/2012 - 08:28 am.

    Am I missing something?

    Here we have a child, Travon, that is out walking around at 1am and his parents don’t have clue of his where- abouts. The child has a confrontation with an adult and gets shot because he doesn’t have the sense to be in bed at that late hour. Then we have a mother that trademarks his sons name due to his death….. So we blame the adult that is a neighborhood watch member who happens to carry a gun. So then we blame a corporation that supports personal responsibility. This reminds me of the Direct TV commercials on television where the cable viewer does all sorts of weird thing due to being mad at the cable company. Am I missing something here??????

    • Submitted by Bruce Johnson on 04/17/2012 - 02:03 pm.

      How did this comment pass review?

      I have some reservations about censoring comments at all, but in general commenting at Minnpost is excellent. Since there is purportedly a review process in place how did this “Am I missing something?” comment get published, given the significant amount of stupidity and pointlessness relative to its length? And to answer the subject title’s question, yes you are missing something.

  13. Submitted by Tony George on 04/17/2012 - 11:12 am.

    ALEC Defamation of Character

    It is certainly a defamation of character to falsely accuse someone of being one of these ALEC Koch brother clone lowlifes. Anyone in the Minnesota legislature who is NOT an ALEC member can be proud.

  14. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/18/2012 - 08:20 am.

    This is hilarious

    ALEC is an organization that provides boilerplate language to conservative legislators for laws that are universally popular with the conservative movement. Most deal with 2nd amendment rights, voter fraud, tax reform, government union reform, etc.

    The Left has similar organizations, I’m sure, we just don’t hear about them because most normal people wouldn’t care how the bills actually get written.

    Their only role is to provide convenient, off-the-shelf bills, the legalese language of which is tedious to write, especially if you’re not a professional legislator or a lawyer. So what?!

    Do you in your naive heart really think that shutting down ALEC will stop legislation favored by conservatives? It will just be written by others at greater time and cost.

  15. Submitted by Pat Berg on 04/18/2012 - 08:37 am.

    ALEC retreats?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/alec-retreats-stand-your-ground-laws-voter-id_n_1431531.html

    Unfortunately too late to keep the Voter Suppression Amendment off of our ballot this November.

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