Coca-Cola Co. and Kraft Foods Inc. bowed to consumer pressure this week and cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative lobbying group that has recently backed controversial voter ID and so-called “stand your ground” laws.
Within hours of advocacy group Color of Change launching a boycott against Coca-Cola for its participation on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board, the soft drink giant issued a statement saying that it had “elected to discontinue its membership.”
But the company blamed ALEC’s support of “discriminatory food and beverage taxes” instead of “issues that have no direct bearing on our business.”
“We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our company and industry,”Coca-Colasaid.
Kraft followed late Thursday, saying in a statement that it has “made the decision not to renew” its ALEC membership, which is expiring. The company was opaque in its reasoning, citing “limited resources” and saying that its involvement with ALEC “has been strictly limited to discussions about economic growth and development, transportation and tax policy.”
Still, the withdrawals pleased ALEC detractors, which includes the Center for Media and Democracy. The liberal-leaning nonprofit said it had launched a protest campaign in tandem with Color of Change opposing what it said were ALEC’s efforts to deny climate change, undermine public schools and encourage laws that would require voters to present various forms of identification before voting.
Critics of the policies, which have already been implemented in several states, say that they are more likely to shut out minorities, the poor, the elderly and even college students.
Draft legislation from ALEC has also helped fan the debate over “stand your ground” laws, which have played a central role in the February shooting of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
Color of Change, an African American advocacy group co-founded by James Rucker and Van Jones, issued a statement saying that the group would direct its sights at other companies associated with ALEC.
ALEC helps corporations and individuals draft model legislation to send to politicians. Its website says that the group’s mission is “to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty.”
Other members of ALEC’s Enterprise Board include executives from Wal-Mart, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, AT&T, UPS and ExxonMobil. In January, PepsiCo quietly pulled itself off the board.
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