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.
"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.)
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.