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Right-Wing ALEC in Damage Control, While Activists Launch Campaign to Expose 'ALEC Democrats'

ALEC has made some concessions, but activists are keeping the pressure on, expanding their focus beyond corporations to target elected officials who align themselves with ALEC.

The grassroots progressive campaigns calling on corporations to drop their support of the right-wing front group ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) have had impressive results so far. Taking advantage of the public's current interest in (and rage over) so-called "stand your ground" laws in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, groups including and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee have successfully urged about a dozen major groups to ditch ALEC. In response, ALEC has made some concessions and gone into full-on damage-control mode. But activists are keeping the pressure on, now expanding their focus beyond ALEC's corporate supporters to target the members of government who align themselves with ALEC as well.

Several months after the launch of the complementary anti-ALEC campaigns -- which target not only "stand your ground" laws but also voter ID, anti-union, anti-public education, and anti-immigration legislation -- Coca-Cola announced that it would drop its support for ALEC. Being such a high-profile company, Coke started something of a domino effect. Soon PepsiCo followed suit, then Kraft, McDonald's, Wendy's, Intuit, Mars, Arizona Public Service, Reed Elsevier, American Traffic Solutions, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Yum! Brands (Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut) did the same.

In addition, the Gates Foundation, the largest foundation in the world by a significant margin, announced that it would not renew funding to the group.

And still other companies, including Geico, Ticketmaster, Cargill, and General Mills Restaurants, are scrambling to cover up their past relationships with ALEC.

In short, as corporations see ALEC's dirt dragged out into the open, they're quickly starting to see an affiliation with the group as a liability.

Activists are still targeting corporations that support ALEC; that part of the campaign hasn't ended. "Who's next???" asks a PCCC petition that lists all the major groups to drop ALEC and urges AT&T, State Farm and Johnson & Johnson to join their ranks. Meanwhile, Common Cause has targeted pharmaceutical companies and ALEC supporters GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer.

The combined efforts of progressive groups like PCCC, Common Cause, ColorOfChange, People for the American Way, the Center for Media and Democracy, and CREDO Action have attracted 450,000 petition signers, and according to PCCC, its anti-ALEC ads have received some 7 million impressions online.

ALEC's response to all this negative attention has been two-pronged: first the group lashed out against the " coordinated and well-funded intimidation campaign" being carried out against its corporate members (without offering any evidence for the "well-funded" or "intimidation" accusations). Then, less than week later, ALEC announced a concession of sorts. Specifically, the group said, in a vaguely worded press release, that it would dismantle its Public Safety and Elections Task Force -- the entity behind much of ALEC's most controversial legislation.

Shortly after the announcement, the Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch Web site published a report by Brendan Fischer on the history of the task force, which is tied to dubious "criminal justice" efforts backed by Wisconsin governor and former ALEC member Scott Walker and Arizona's infamous SB1070 immigration law, which is being contested in the Supreme Court, among other bills. Fischer writes:

For at least three decades, the corporations, special interest groups, and legislators on the ALEC Public Safety & Elections Task Force (known as the Criminal Justice Task Force until 2009) have approved model bills that promote for-profit prisons and lengthen prison sentences, criminalize immigrants, expand the "war on drugs," thwart evidence-based pre-trial release programs in favor of for-profit bail-bonding, and many other policies.

Some progressive activist groups celebrated the demise of the task force unconditionally. Common Cause said in a statement, "In folding its Public Safety and Elections Task Force, ALEC is abandoning under pressure the most controversial part of its agenda; that's an important victory for the American public."

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