Posted by Rebekah Wilce on May 31, 2012

Wal-Mart, a member of ALEC's corporate "Private Enterprise" board and of the Public Safety and Elections Task Force that adopted Florida's "Stand Your Ground" as a "model" bill, announced yesterday that it is "suspending" its ALEC membership.

Wal-Mart Supercenter"We feel that the divide between these activities and our purpose as a business has become too wide. To that end, we are suspending our membership in ALEC," Wal-Mart vice president of public affairs and government relations, Maggie Sans, told Reuters. Sans is stepping down as secretary of ALEC's corporate board.

The Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD's) Executive Director, Lisa Graves, applauded Wal-Mart "for doing the right thing in leaving ALEC, especially in the wake of newly emerged information showing how ALEC has been skirting federal and state lobbying and ethics laws." She added that "this is a very positive step for Wal-Mart," a long-time leader and funder of ALEC's operations, and "it also shows that the excellent work of advocates to shine a light on ALEC's extreme agenda is having a major impact."

Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world as well as the largest retailer of firearms in the United States. It had $421.8 billion in sales in 2011, edging out Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, BP -- all of which are still ALEC member companies -- for the most revenue, according to CNN.

Wal-Mart's History of Involvement with ALEC

Wal-Mart, which joined ALEC in 1993, had previously declined to cut ties with ALEC, telling the Washington Examiner in April, "Our membership in any organization does not affirm our agreement with each policy created by the broader group."

Sans told Reuters, "Previously, we expressed our concerns about ALEC's decision to weigh in on issues that stray from its core mission 'to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets.'"

When the Public Safety Elections Task Force ratified the law that may protect Trayvon Martin's killer and other unarmed victims in 2005, Wal-Mart was the corporate co-chair of that Task Force (see the screenshot here), as has reported.

In addition to its membership in the Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which was disbanded in April, Wal-Mart participated in ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force, its Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force, and its Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. ALEC documents obtained and released by Common Cause confirm these affiliations. Over the years, these task forces have approved ALEC "model" bills expanding the power of insurance companies, undermining state insurance mandates, eroding workers' rights, deregulating the telecommunications industry, eliminating the capital gains tax for the wealthy, and forcing severe austerity measures for basic services by severely limiting the ability of state government to raise revenue. (It is not clear how long Wal-Mart was a member of these task forces.)

For more on Wal-Mart's role in ALEC, see CMD's reporting here and here.

The Rush to Dump ALEC

Corporations that have publicly cut ties to ALEC in recent weeks include Medtronic, Amazon.com, Scantron Corporation, Kaplan Higher Education, Procter & Gamble, YUM! Brands, Blue Cross Blue Shield, American Traffic Solutions, Reed Elsevier, Arizona Public Service, Mars, Wendy's, McDonald's, Intuit, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola. The addition of Wal-Mart brings the total to 18. Four non-profits -- Lumina Foundation for Education, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and the Gates Foundation -- and 54 state legislators have also cut ties with ALEC.

Color of Change, along with CMD, Common Cause, People for the American Way, and others are focusing now on asking State Farm, AT&T, and Johnson & Johnson to cut ties with ALEC.

Rebekah Wilce

Rebekah Wilce is a reporter and researcher who directs CMD's Food Rights Network project.

Comments

Sad

Sad loss of objectivity, Miss Objective Reporter. "When the Public Safety Elections Task Force ratified the law that may protect Trayvon Martin's killer and other unarmed victims in 2005". Why don't we at least wait until the jury convicts him.

As for Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Wendy's, etc. dropping ALEC, that is there business. I just want it known, that "unarmed" does not mean "lack of overwhelming, life threatening force." If a person has me or my wife in a life or body threatening hold and I know that I have no other recourse, I will shoot them. In our town, a man was killed when shoved to the ground roughly, striking his head. People have been kicked to death and strangled. According to you, Miss ObjRep and other opposers of the SYG law, the victim had no right to defend themselves with a firearm (had they had one). So sad.

Dear Anonymous:

Perhaps you have not read the autopsy report, but we have. Trayvon Martin was killed by a single gun shot wound to his heart shot from a gun at an "intermediate distance." The man who killed him and who admitted he fired that shot is George Zimmerman. Martin was unarmed; he possessed only the clothes on his back, Skittles, tea, and his phone.

Those are the facts.

The question for the jury is whether Zimmerman will be convicted for shooting this unarmed young man to death, given how the law was changed to make it harder to convict. That is the very question the writer posed. And we have previously documented how the law has been cited to prevent other shooters of unarmed men from even facing a trial before a jury where the defendant has to establish a claim of self-defense, versus the grant of legal immunity provided by the law ALEC backed as a national model.

You have been deeply misled by the NRA or other propaganda if you believe that without this law you have no right of self-defense if you or your wife's life is in danger. Contrary to the claims made in defense of the SYG laws, in every state Americans have long had a right of self defense, to use deadly force to protect themselves against deadly force. That is the real "castle doctrine" that has been part of U.S. law for more than two centuries.

What the SYG model bill changed was whether you have to prove to a jury of your peers that your actions in self-defense were justified based on the facts you faced; what the bill does is attempt to relieve the shooter of that burden of proof by granting him legal immunity, to prevent a case from getting to a jury or to make it harder for the prosecutor to overcome such a legal presumption and for a jury to convict. Often murder charges and self defense claims involve just two witnesses: two people, one living and one dead.

If your loved one were the victim of such a shooting and the shooter claimed self-defense, wouldn't you want the case to be heard by a jury with the ability to consider whether the killer's actions were justified based on the facts? But the SYG law has been cited to give legal immunity to killers and prevent cases from getting to a jury, based on the assertions of the shooter--who is not under oath and has strong incentives to lie about about the circumstances of the killing. In the Zimmerman case, the SYG law was initially cited to prevent the case from being fully investigated and to try to prevent a jury from hearing the evidence and rendering a judgment, guilty or not guilty.

So, what's sad is both that good people have been given disinformation by proponents of ALEC's SYG laws that leads to misunderstanding what the law does and also that the SYG law has been used to prevent the American jury system from doing its job of impartially evaluating whether the use of deadly force was justified, versus just taking the shooter's word that it was.

the problem with your argument is that the people in your camp have had george zimmerman tried and convicted since the day of the event. when the racial motivation was proved to be untrue - due to your liberal media distorting the facts - you then tried to prove zimmerman had no injuries.

now that it is clear he did have injuries, you want to attack the SYG law.

frankly, it think it is best not to convict people in the court of public opinion. that isn't just.

what people of your persuasion and a complicit media have done to george zimmerman and his family is nothing short of lynching.

Dear Sir or Madam:

I'm not sure who you think the people in my "camp" are, but we have been crystal clear from day one that the long-standing laws of the U.S., which recognize the right of self-defense and that protect murder victims who cannot speak for themselves by letting an impartial jury consider the evidence, should not be supplanted by an NRA-drafted/ALEC-ratified law that tilts the scales of justice. The way SYG was initially applied in the Zimmerman case was to exonerate the shooter, without letting either the family of the dead child or the public see the evidence, and to attempt to prevent a jury of Zimmerman's peers from evaluating the evidence and truthfulness of his claims of what happened that terrible day.

If you think the claim of racial motivation has been "proved to be untrue" then you have not read all of the evidence, but one would not expect you to have examined all the evidence since you are not duly sworn juror in the case. And, if you think we "tried to prove zimmerman had no injuries" then it is quite clear you have not even read what we have written about the case.

The fact that "it is clear he did have injuries" does not exonerate Zimmerman; that is for a jury to determine, whether his use of deadly force was justified.

And regardless of the various claims about how serious zimmerman's injuries were or were not, we did not "then" attack SYG. We have been critical of this terribly irresponsible and dangerous model bill from the outset, for the reasons discussed in the earlier reply.

Frankly, I too think it is best not to convict people in the court of public opinion--or exonerate them--based on partial or incomplete information. That's why we have a jury system, but that's the very system that the NRA-ALEC model bill has sought to pre-empt. A jury trial is a critical component of the idea of fairness and justice. A jury trial, though an imperfect process, is designed to provide all parties with a stake in the outcome, the accused and the victim's family, with a fair opportunity to be heard and to hear the evidence, and it provides a transparent process for the public to observe whether justice was served.

I'm shocked and appalled that you would dare to compare our reporting and analysis of this case (by people of my "persuasion," whatever that means) to a lynching. A lynching is precisely what our modern criminal justice laws are hopefully designed to prevent. That is, the law is supposed to ensure that a black man does not have to walk the streets in America afraid that he will be summarily executed, shot in the heart, or lynched.

The very idea that you would conflate public concern--about Trayvon Martin's killer just walking free without an arrest or a jury trial to uncover the truth of what really happened that day--with a lynching demonstrates, regrettably, a serious misunderstanding of the terrible history of lynching in Florida and other states. An African American teenager walking home from the store eating skittles and talking to his girlfriend should not have to be afraid that he will be stalked by a man the police told to stand down and then ultimately lose his life as a result of being in a neighborhood the killer thought the kid did not belong. This situation re-opens old and real wounds over numerous African American young men who were lynched for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or not responding deferentially enough to an aggressor.

Quite frankly, it is fundamentally disrespectful to equate the public concern over Zimmerman avoiding a jury trial due to the NRA's wishlist becoming law with a lynching. Zimmerman is still alive and a young man has lost his life at Zimmerman's hands. For a person who is expressing deep concern for the shooter and objecting to others pre-judging the case, where is your sympathy for the fact someone's child was killed walking home from the store? Pre-judging goes both ways.

But that's one of the reasons that cases where a person is killed and the other claims self-defense should be heard by a jury empowered to decide whether that killing was justified--without the NRA and ALEC putting their thumbs on the scale of justice--rather than decided by pundits or even police speculating based on partial evidence.

And, had the public not expressed its sincere and righteous outrage over the effort to prevent a case like this from being tried by a jury, the case would never have been re-opened so that a jury might provide the measure of fairness and justice to all that any good citizen would desire.

Thanks so much for your wonderful work and responses to the comments in this post. It is disheartening to see how many people do not use facts and reasoning to form their opinions.

more that is.

Could not have possibly said it better myself.

Nicely written Lisa.

liberal media my ass

Hooray for France! They “pulled the plug”on the ultra- conservative ideologists in their country in the recent election. Sarkozy was a right-wing puppet who favored the rich, courted the extreme right, and, was, no doubt, involved in the scandal that ended the political career of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was rumored to oppose Sarkozy in the recent election.

We must follow the French! We must stop organizations like ALEC if America is to survive. Right wing organizations are systematically destroying America following the theory of the world's most well-known evil right-winger, Adolph Hitler, who built an army of people based on a his famous quote, “How fortunate for rulers that men do not think.” With that in mind, he gathered thousands of mindless soldiers who were willing to murder millions of Jews.

The battle for control in the US is more subtle than Hitler’s rhetoric, but the results are the same. Organizations like ALEC with rich, well-educated and powerful leaders seduce millions of mindless uneducated, bigoted individuals who embrace their message of fear, prejudice, and false patriotism. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are unwittingly involved in supporting political polices that will destroy America as we know it.

The destruction of the middle class precedes the downfall of any nation. America's middle class is drowning in a sea of contrived economic crises, joblessness, homelessness, and spiraling gas prices; all, of which, began over a decade ago under the Bush administration. I support Capitalism, but it must work for the masses. Two wars have been financed on the backs of the middle class with the only beneficiaries of those wars being defense contractors such as Halliburton. Most US citizens don't realize that there are more civilian contractors on the ground now in the war zones than military personnel at a cost of billions of dollars to the American taxpayers.

Many waited, watched, and hoped that the OCCUPY movement would spread and spur a national crusade that would counteract the right wing, but it was alarming to watch how quickly law enforcement was able to suppress the effort. Even the violent aggressive protests over the Vietnam War were allowed to function and, thus, an escalation of the end of the war. Obviously, freedom of speech has become a benign Constitutional right. We must follow in Frances’ footsteps as we “pull the plug” on the right wing in America.

Great comment Katherine, keep up the good work and express yourself to the fullest.

The light is shining through....