Yum! Brands -- the owner of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut -- has ended its membership with the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council following a campaign launched by liberal and progressive groups.

"This week, ColorOfChange members have been calling executives at Yum! Brands to ask the company to end its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)," Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson said Thursday. "Today, employees in Yum! Brands' corporate headquarters have told our members and Color Of Change staff that the company has in fact dropped ALEC. In doing so, the operator of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell has restored our belief that it stands in favor of crafting legislation in view of the public, rather than behind closed doors."

ALEC creates "model" legislation for state lawmakers and describes itself as "policy making program that unites members of the public and private sectors in a dynamic partnership” based on “Jeffersonian principles." The little-known but influential organization 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.

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 began a campaign targeting ALEC's corporate sponsors -- who pay tens of thousands of dollars every year to be members.

Former ALEC members Mars Inc., the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, Intuit, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, American Traffic Solutions, Reed Elsevier, Arizona Public Service and Blue Cross Blue Shield have all publicly distanced themselves from the organization.

"We want to thank these companies for making the right decision, and we want to thank Color Of Change members and our partners," Robinson said. "We continue to call on all major corporations to stop funding ALEC given its involvement in voter suppression. Our members and allied groups are prepared to hold accountable companies that continue to associate themselves with an organization that has attacked voting rights, causing irreparable damage nationwide."

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 such as voter ID laws. 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.

[KFC restaurant photo via Brisbane / Shutterstock.com]