Public interest groups campaigning to convince Coca-Cola to break ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) scored a major victory yesterday when Coke announced it had "elected to discontinue its membership with" ALEC.
According to a statement Coke made to the Washington Examiner, "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. We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our Company and industry."
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) launched its public campaign against Coca-Cola in August 2011, asking Coke "to stop funding the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate bill mill undermining our democracy," and pointing out: "Your financial support underwrites ALEC's agenda to:
- Suppress voting by students and others through restrictive Voter ID laws.
- Push climate change denial and restrict protections for our environment.
- Undermine public schools by using tax dollars to subsidize for-profit schools.
- Limit consumers' rights and the basic right of workers to organize.
- And privatize and ration Medicare and Social Security, as well as other government services."
CMD's campaign sent emails and postcards to Coke CEO Muhtar Kent. Gene Rackley, Director of Public Affairs and Communications at Coca-Cola Refreshments, had been on the ALEC corporate ("Private Enterprise") board. The ALEC website no longer listed Coke on the corporate board as of last week.
Color of Change (CoC) launched an allied campaign targeting ALEC corporations, including Coca-Cola, in December 2011. Its petition drive resulted in over 85,000 signatures. CoC has focused on ALEC's role in so-called "voter ID" legislation ALEC approved as a "model," which will make it more difficult for citizens to exercise their right to vote. Several states have adopted bills with similar restrictions over the past two years, even though many civil rights groups, such as the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, CoC, and others -- including CMD/PRWatch -- have noted that these voter restrictive bills will have adverse consequences on communities of color, the elderly, and college students.
CoC announced a public boycott of Coke yesterday, joined by other public interest groups. Coke published its statement backing out of ALEC within five hours.
Coke's precipitous exit from the corporate bill mill comes on the heels of the quiet withdrawal of Pepsi from ALEC membership. Wal-Mart and Kraft Foods issued statements, similar to Koch Industries, sticking with ALEC, but several corporations that have served as ALEC leaders have been silent in the face of the growing controversy surrounding ALEC's agenda on guns, voting, and other matters.
CMD launched a new set of petitions to all the corporations remaining on ALEC's corporate board last week in the wake of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. Click here to tell ALEC companies to stand down!