Progressive and liberal groups scored another victory on Tuesday when insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield confirmed that it was ending its relationship with the conservative American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC).
"This week I spoke with an executive at Blue Cross Blue Shield who told me that the company did not renew its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council this year, and we followed up with the company to confirm they are no longer a member of ALEC," Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color of Change, said. "We applaud BCBS for ending its relationship with this shadowy D.C. organization that would rather have our law makers work for corporations than the people."
ALEC drafts model bills for legislators and has been a driving force behind voter ID laws, so-called “stand your ground” laws, business-friendly tort reforms, Arizona’s controversial immigration law, and efforts to privatize public education.
Despite its influence, the nearly forty-year-old organization received little scrutiny until recently, when organizations like Color of Change, Common Cause, People for the American Way, Progress Now, the Center for Media and Democracy, CREDO Action and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee started a campaign to publicly expose companies who supported ALEC.
"We continue to call on all major corporations to stop funding ALEC given its involvement in voter suppression," Robinson said. "Our members and allied groups are prepared to hold accountable companies that continue to associate themselves with an organization that attacks voting rights."
Mars Inc., the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, Intuit, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Reed Elsevier have all publicly distanced themselves from the organization.
ALEC has decried the “well-funded, expertly coordinated intimidation campaign” against its corporate members, claiming the organization would only “redouble” their efforts to promote pro-growth, pro-jobs policies.
The organization announced Tuesday that it was eliminating its Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which focused on non-economic issues. However, ALEC's economic focus will continue to be on repealing the minimum wage, paid sick days laws, the estate tax, and capital gains taxes along with privatizing public lands and pushing state union-busting measures.
“We are encouraged that the nationwide campaign by civil rights advocates has forced ALEC to rethink its voter suppression and criminal protection work, but we know that for so many Americans, the damage has already been done,” said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. “This year, because of ALEC, millions of voters who had been eligible to vote in 2008 will be denied access to the ballot box. We may never know how many families will be denied justice because of the ‘stand your ground’ laws that continue to put communities in danger, or how many families will torn apart under repressive anti-immigrant laws.”
With prior reporting by Andrew Jones
[Image via Flickr user Soozarty1, Creative Commons licensed]