The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nonpartisan individual membership organization of state legislators that favors federalism and conservative public policy solutions, is under fire for its connection to, among other controversial pieces of legislation, Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.
In a Huffington Post article titled “How Are ALEC Laws Undermining Our Democracy?” Marvin Meadors characterized the non-profit organization in the following way:
ALEC, which bears a striking resemblance to the evil law firm in the film The Devil’s Advocate, is a “bill churning mill” which uses corporate money to draft model legislation that advances the agenda of the far right and encourages crony capitalism.
Meadors then goes on to claim that ALEC is, in part, responsible for the death of Trayvon Maritn, the unarmed 17-year-old who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, in late February.
The “Stand Your Ground law,” now even questioned by many conservatives, is indirectly responsible for the death of Trayvon Martin. Remember that Trayvon lay on a cold slab in the medical examiner’s office for three days unidentified as a John Doe. And it could have been anyone of us! We have ALEC to thank!
Meadors is not the only individual who feels this way. Nor is he the only one actively speaking out against ALEC. A black advocacy group – Color of Change – has been pressuring corporations associated with ALEC to rescind or discontinue their membership for at least the past year.
Until recently, Color of Change’s big beef with ALEC was its support for voter identification laws, but now, in the wake of the Martin shooting, it’s putting Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law at the fore of its public pressure campaign.
Thus far, corporate heavyweights including Pepsi, Coca-Cola and now Kraft Foods have announced their break with the conservative group.
“Our membership in ALEC expires this spring and for a number of reasons, including limited resources, we have made the decision not to renew,” Kraft Corporate Affairs Director Susan Davison told POLITICO.
To further distance itself from the controversy surrounding ALEC, Davison added that Kraft’s participation with ALEC has been limited to discussions about economic growth and development, transportation and tax policy.
“We did not participate in meetings or conversations related to other issues,” she added.
Meanwhile, Color of Change is not resting on its laurels.
“We’re planning to move forward with other targets next week,” Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson, told POLITICO.
He declined to specify which companies would be in their cross hairs, but said “There’s a number of corporations that we are in process with, and that we are sort of moving to the same next steps that we sort of just did on Coke” (Coca-Cola announced on Wednesday that it plans to end its membership with ALEC).
In response to the increasing public scrutiny following the Martin shooting, ALEC issued the following statement:
Trayvon Martin’s death was a great tragedy that brings sadness to all of us. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, and community.
It is a great shame that some are using this tragedy to further their political ends. Indeed, Paul Krugman describes advancing his political goals as the “silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing.” That is as callous as it is cruel, and it is also incorrect. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law was the basis for the American Legislative Exchange Council’s model legislation, not the other way around. Moreover, it is unclear whether that law could apply to this case at all. “Stand Your Ground” or the “Castle Doctrine” is designed to protect people who defend themselves from imminent death and great bodily harm. It does not allow you to pursue another person. It does not allow you to seek confrontation. It does not allow you to attack someone who does not pose an imminent threat. What it does is allow you to defend yourself and your family from immediate and real danger.
In the end, we will always respect people who disagree with us in matters of policy, but it is simply wrong to try to score political points by taking advantage of a great tragedy like Trayvon Martin’s death.
In the near future, one can bet that attacks on corporations and organizations that support gun rights and one’s natural right to self-defense will increase. Therefore, we must, as Guns.com writer David LaPell pointed out in his article, Beware Attacks on Stand Your Ground Laws as Trayvon Martin Case Heats Up, “make sure we voice our opinion, even if you don’t own a gun. Everyone has the right to defend themselves and we should not have to run and hide before we can do that.”
Cover photo courtesy of AP