The American Legislative Exchange Council, an influential conservative organization that helps craft state-level legislation, announced on Tuesday it would halt its work on a Public Safety and Elections Task Force that had formulated voter identification and gun laws.
ALEC's legislative work burst into public view after the controversial shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teenager whose assailant was initially not arrested because of a law ALEC had promoted. The so-called stand your ground law exonerates people who use lethal force in self-defense.
The organization said in a press release that it was ending the task force to focus its advocacy efforts on economic issues, saying that we are refocusing our commitment to free-market, limited government and pro-growth principles, and have made changes internally to reflect this renewed focus.
Guided by a philosophy of limiting government and fostering private enterprise, ALEC writes templates for bills that can then be introduced by lawmakers. That has resulted in a significant amount of overlap between ALEC's work and legislation promoted by conservative politicians: The Newark Star-Ledger found that some of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's leading initiatives mirrored ALEC proposals, and a Florida state representative submitted a resolution to cut corporate taxes that left in a reference to ALEC.
The organization draws much of its funding from corporate patrons, whose membership dues give them access to legislators and allow them to underwrite studies and task forces. But prominent sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Kraft, McDonald's and Intuit, announced last week that they were leaving ALEC amid the furor over the stand your ground law, and boycotts pushed by the advocacy organization Color of Change.
Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business, a Coca-Cola spokesperson told the Washington Examiner. We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our Company and industry.
In addition to its forays into gun-related legislation, ALEC pushed for a series of restrictive state voting laws that voting rights organizations and Democrats, including Attorney General Eric Holder, say disenfranchise poor and minority voters.