ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, backed down in the face of the defections from its corporate members. As we discussed, activists targeted ALEC’s support of Voter ID and Stand Your Ground laws to pressure corporations to stop giving money to the conservative legislative advocacy group.
Facing protests, petitions, and questions from investors wondering about corporate priorities, a number of companies have announced that they’re through with ALEC, including Coca-cola, PepsiCo, Kraft, Intuit, and Wendy’s. The Gates Foundation also announced that it would no longer support ALEC. Although state legislators pay a membership fee to ALEC, virtually all of its funding comes from these corporate sponsors. Responding to these defections, bad publicity, and certainly the threat of more of the same, ALEC pared its legislative agenda. In a statement released yesterday, ALEC announced:
Today we are redoubling our efforts on the economic front, a priority that has been the hallmark of our organization for decades. Fostering the exchange of pro-growth, solutions-oriented ideas is precisely why ALEC exists.
To that end, our legislative board last week unanimously agreed to further our work on policies that will help spur innovation and competitiveness across the country…
We are eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy. The remaining budgetary and economic issues will be reassigned.
This is a sharp turnabout for ALEC, which just a week earlier had proclaimed its refusal to be intimidated by “the coordinated and well-funded intimidation campaign against corporate members of the organization:…. We are not and will not be defined by ideological special interests who would like to eliminate discourse that leads to economic vitality, jobs and fiscal stability for the states.”
I guess there’s a fine line between economic intimidation (consumers choosing not to buy products from companies that work against their interests) and responding to market conditions. ALEC has flourished for nearly four decades, at least partly because it’s been able to serve its sponsors.
Groups including Color of Change and the NAACP are clearly responsible for this victory, but it’s a hard win to claim. ALEC is certainly going to continue its efforts on taxes, regulation, spending, and unions, perhaps more effectively. It’s not clear whether any of the defectors will return, but surely ALEC has kept other supporters within its ranks. This is exactly the kind of incremental victory that characterizes successful movement efforts in the United States.