The No Alec Club

The Trayvon Martin shooting had lots of people wondering exactly how Florida came to pass its bizarre Stand Your Ground law.  As documented by the New York Times’ Paul Krugman (the Times has another story on the topic today) and others, there’s a little-known organization at the center of this legislative push in states across the country:

Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida’s law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC’s activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society — and our democracy. . .

. . .In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization — that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.

As happened with the Rush Limbaugh radio show only weeks ago, the moment attention was focused on which companies were affiliated with ALEC, many of them began to jump ship. The latest to leave are McDonald’s and Wendy’s:

McDonald’s, it turns out, isn’t the only fast-food giant to have cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-funded organization that writes up model bills for thousands of state lawmakers nationwide. Wendy’s said on its official Twitter feed on Tuesday night that it, too, had left ALEC. “We decided late 2011 and never renewed this year. It didn’t fit our business needs,” the company tweeted. Wendy’s is currently not a member of ALEC, it stressed.

Bob Bertini, a spokesman for Wendy’s, confirmed the move. “The tweet is correct. Wendy’s is not a member of ALEC. Last year, we made the decision not to renew for 2012,” he wrote in an email to Mother Jones.

Wendy’s departure is arguably more significant than McDonald’s given Wendy’s past support for conservative and staunchly pro-industry causes. For instance, Wendy’s International has funded the Center for Consumer Freedom, a phony grassroots group that fights regulation of the food and beverage industries. And Wendy’s political action committee has given significantly more of its money in recent election cycles to Republican lawmakers than Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Wendy’s joins a handful of other major food and beverage companies—McDonald’s, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Kraft—in ditching ALEC. Intuit, which makes the Quicken personal finance software, has also ended its ALEC membership.

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