The American Legislative Exchange Council — facing heavy pressure for backing voter ID and ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws — has announced it is eliminating the task force that deals with such issues, and will focus instead on economic matters. The group’s controversial stands on voting rights and self-defense have been the subject of recent stories by the Center for Public Integrity.
ALEC spun its announcement by declaring that it was “refocusing our commitment to free-market, limited government and pro-growth principles.” The statement from ALEC national chair David Frizzell, an Indiana state representative, said the group was eliminating its Public Safety and Elections Task Force and “reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy.”
“While we recognize there are other critical, non-economic issues that are vitally important to millions of Americans, we believe we must concentrate on initiatives that spur competitiveness and innovation and put more Americans back to work.”
The announcement said the group’s legislative board had made the decision last week.
Created in 1973, ALEC, a coalition of American corporations and mostly Republican state legislators, had long operated quietly and effectively in pushing conservative and business-friendly laws, guided by free enterprise and limited government principles. ALEC receives funding from hundreds of corporate members, including Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, AT&T and Walmart. In addition, two thousand legislators pay $50 a year to be members.
ALEC’s broad legislative agenda had covered state budgets, education, health care and energy, among other topics. More recently, though, the group had drawn fire from liberal advocacy groups both for its support of ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws that have been in the news since the February shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin and for its backing of voter ID laws requiring voters to show government-issued identification at the polls. ALEC’s involvement in those issues had originated in the group’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force.
In recent weeks, pressure from the liberal groups was clearly having an effect, as brand-name firms began dropping their ALEC membership. Coca-Cola quit on April 4 and Pepsi, Kraft Foods, Intuit and McDonalds soon followed suit.
In late March, a Center for Public Integrity piece detailed ALEC’s involvement in helping the National Rifle Association push state “Stand Your Ground’ laws nationwide. Another Center story earlier this week revealed how the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America — both ALEC members — had supported state legislators sponsoring voter ID measures.