GM, Walgreen Latest Leaving ALEC

Photograph by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

The "Health Corner" conference room for customer programs with local doctors and heathcare experts, at a Walgreen Co. store in Chicago.

A corporate exodus continues from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Washington-based public policy group that championed “Stand Your Ground” gun laws spotlighted by the  killing of black teenager Treyvon Martin in Florida earlier this year.

General Motors Co. and Walgreen Co.  joined the ranks of companies deciding to cut their ties with ALEC, which also was part of the push for controversial voter-identification laws in various states.

More than two dozen other companies previously said they were leaving the group, including Pepsico Inc., McDonald’s Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

“We routinely evaluate our support for a variety of organizations,” said Greg Martin, a GM spokesman. “As such, we have decided to discontinue our support and funding of ALEC.”

“We recently informed ALEC that effective immediately Walgreen Co. will not be renewing its membership in their organization,” said James Graham, a company spokesman.

The predictably bland statements mask the lightning rod that ALEC has become in some quarters.

Its corporate dues of as much as $25,000 a year allow company representatives to help draft bills that the group’s members then try to enact in their home states.

ALEC found itself under the glare of unwanted publicity in the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s shooting of Martin, 17, in late February. That’s because ALEC had advocated the “Stand Your Ground” measures that allow individuals who feel threatened in a public space to fight back rather than retreat. And it was the Florida version of the law that local authorities cited when they initially didn’t arrest Zimmerman, a community watch volunteer who had a confrontation with Martin.

Zimmerman has since been charged with second-degree murder and pleaded not guilty.

Leading the charge for companies to abandon ALEC has been Colorofchange.org, a New York-based civil rights group.

Reacting to the GM and Walgreen departures, Rashad Robinson, the group’s executive director, said: “More and more companies are getting the message that they cannot in good conscience market products to our communities while handing over customers’ dollars to an organization that suppresses the rights and endangers the safety of people of color.”

ALEC, of course sees it differently. Reacting to earlier exits by companies from the group, spokeswoman Kaitlyn Buss decried ”this corporate intimidation and bully campaign.”

Still, it’s notable that ALEC has disbanded the task force that help draft “Stand Your Ground” and voter-ID bills, and intends to focus purely on economic issues.

Here’s what strikes us.

Even with President Barack Obama now vowing to seek some sort of consensus on reducing gun violence following last week’s deadly mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, tougher gun control laws remain outside the realm of political possibility. As the ALEC experience indicates, though, it’s clearly possible to pay a price for backing a law seen as pro-gun.

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