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Corporations Flee Right-Wing ALEC: Yet Another Win for Progressives

Recently there have been several instances in which the public spoke out loud enough that a major organization or company had to back down, David and Goliath-style.

Recently, activist site launched a campaign targeting corporations that fund the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the right-wing group that has played a key role in the passage of loathsome voter ID and "stand your ground" laws around the country. As told its members:

Supporters of discriminatory voter ID laws claim they want to reduce voter fraud (individuals voting illegally, or voting twice). But such fraud almost never actually occurs, and never in amounts large enough to affect the result of elections. What is clear is that voter ID laws prevent large numbers of eligible voters from casting a ballot, and could disenfranchise up to 5 million people.....Major companies that rely on business from black folks shouldn't be involved in suppressing our vote.

A petition addressed to "the leadership of corporations that support ALEC" urges the companies, "I presume your company does not want to support voter suppression, nor have your products or services associated with discrimination and large-scale voter disenfranchisement. I urge you to immediately stop funding ALEC and issue a public statement making it clear that your company does not support discriminatory voter ID laws and voter suppression."

The companies being targeted included Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Intuit, Inc., and Kraft Foods -- all of which dropped their ALEC memberships as the campaign gained steam. Coca-Cola was the first to announce it was jumping the ALEC ship, and the other companies' announcements soon followed. (Notably, and predictably, missing have been the public statements denouncing voter suppression. Wrote Kraft, "Our membership in ALEC expires this spring and for a number of reasons, including limited resources, we have made the decision not to renew.")

As each new corporation drops ALEC, the pressure mounts for other corporations to do the same. Meanwhile, both Koch Industries and Wal-Mart, which plan to keep their ALEC affiliation, have been forced to issue public statements reaffirming their support for the dubious group. Quoth a Wal-Mart spokesperson, "Our membership in any organization does not affirm our agreement with each policy created by the broader group." Convincing!

Will Wal-Mart and Koch, not to mention ALEC, survive this campaign? As critics of this sort of activism are quick to point out, of course they will. But there are three big wins here that activists should celebrate: 1) The headlines generated by this campaign made the public more aware of ALEC and  of voter ID laws; 2) ALEC has lost some major supporters; and 3) Koch and Wal-Mart had to explicitly state that they would rather stand with ALEC than with the victims of the terrible policies it supports. The latter may seem like a small thing for corporations the size of Koch and Wal-Mart, but it may prove to be a very big deal indeed the more consumers learn about ALEC's unsavory positions.

Blogger thereisnospoon wrote a post at Hullabaloo on Friday about why these types of campaigns work for progressives:

[T]he right wing doesn't look very good when exposed to sunlight. Corporations have an interest in making money, and they can't make money if regular Americans think they're associated with voter suppression of minorities, or with the sort of garbage that comes out of Limbaugh's or Beck's mouths. The people who come out to vote every two to four years may skew older and more conservative than the general population, but the people who buy soft drinks and other products don't. Corporations know this, and the last thing they need is [a] public relations nightmare.

The ALEC campaign isn't the first time that we've seen the power of public pressure on display in recent months. Recently there have been three other instances in which the public spoke out loud enough that a major organization or company had to back down, David and Goliath-style. Remember these?

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