The American Legislative Exchange Conference, a non-partisan group of state legislators known for advocating model legislation such as "Stand Your Ground" and voter identification laws, has come under attack by liberal groups who are demanding that corporations withdraw or not renew their sponsorships of the legislative organization.
Several liberal groups led by Color of Change, have targeted Coke, Wal-Mart and others – who in past years have been major sponsors of ALEC – by suggesting African-Americans boycott the companies.
The boycott has focused on ALEC and not the National Council of State Legislators, another organization whose members tend to be associated more the Democrat party.
According to the NCSL, Wal-Mart, Kraft and Coke are all major sponsors.
On Wednesday, Coke announced they would no longer renew their membership in ALEC, the more conservative leaning legislative group.
"The Coca-Cola Company has elected to discontinue its membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)," company spokeswoman Diana Garaz Ciariante said in a written statement. "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."
Indiana State Rep. Dave Frizzell (R-Johnson Co.) is the current chairman of ALEC. "I'm disappointed that companies who receive the benefits of the free enterprise system we advocate have chosen to discontinue their membership with us," Frizzell told The Christian Post. "The fact is, this is exactly what these types of liberal organizations want - to intimidate people and the private sector. It's a shame, but honestly, we've gotten several calls from companies wanting to join so we can come out ahead in the end."
Another key issue Frizzell pointed out is how the two legislative groups are funded. "ALEC doesn't accept taxpayer dollars, NCSL receives taxpayer dollars from most states," added Frizzell.
Kraft and PepsiCo, formally corporate members of ALEC, have also chosen to withdraw their memberships from the group.
The issue began more than a year ago when Color of Change, a group that describes its goal as "to empower our members – Black Americans and our allies – to make government more responsive to the concerns of Black Americans and to bring about positive political change and social change for everyone," sought to press Coke to withdraw from ALEC.
Their primary issue was ALEC's support of legislation allowing citizens to defend themselves, also known as "Stand Your Ground" or "Castle Doctrine" in many states. The group's secondary issue focused on the passage of voter identification laws requiring citizens to show proof of identification though a driver's license or other government issued I.D.
In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, the group has increased its pressure on other companies to follow in the footsteps of Coke, Pepsi and Kraft. On Thursday, the group issued a press release on Kraft's decision.
"We welcome Kraft Foods Inc.'s decision to stop supporting ALEC, an organization which has worked to disenfranchise African Americans, Latinos, students, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor," said Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson.
The Christian Post contacted Change of Color and they were unwilling to speak to the issue beyond their press releases.
Color of Change has not only called out ALEC, but also the National Rifle Association, accusing them of exporting Florida's "stand your ground" law to more than 20 states across the country, and saying both groups were jeopardizing the safety of Americans nationwide.
"We reached out to Kraft months ago and have been in dialogue with them since then to convey the concerns of more than 85,000 ColorOfChange members who called on major corporations to stop supporting ALEC," a statement reads. "The tragedy of Trayvon Martin's death – and the law that has prevented his killer from being arrested – is another example of how ALEC's agenda is dangerous for people of color."
Martin, an African-American, was shot dead in a gated residential community in Florida on Feb. 26. He was 17.