(WICHITA, Kan) — Big corporations like Coca-Cola, Pepsi Co and Kraft are now cutting ties to a conservative group that has helped state lawmakers with legislation on voter identification, immigration and "stand your ground" gun laws.
In the wake of Trayvon Martin's death, Florida's stand your ground law came into the spotlight. It sparked controversy over the possibility it could shield George Zimmerman from prosecution. Now, a focus on how that law came into place has stretched to corporations, who are involved with an obscure conservative group called the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC for short. The public pressure is being turned up by the liberal advocacy group color of change.
"Our members were asking us questions about stand your ground and how does this law not only got in place in Florida, but around the country? And all the fingers kept pointing back to ALEC. And it's not just ALEC. ALEC doesn't do its work alone. They do it with some of the biggest corporate brands in America." Says Rashad Robinson, Executive Director for Color of Change
Coca-Cola and Kraft are two of the big names that cut ties with ALEC after a barrage of social media. Neither cited the attention over stand your ground as a reason. Pepsi and software company Intuit also cut their ties recently.
Companies can join ALEC by paying a $25,000 membership fee. ALEC says its mission is free market and limited government. It helps copy legislation from one state to another, but some of that legislation has little to do with business. For instance, for stand your ground, 15 states used the exact same language in their bills, according to the Sunlight Foundation. ALEC itself says while it did not write stand your ground, it helped spread it beyond Florida.
"It is one of our model policies but we have a broad area of policy topics and it's really up to a legislator of his or her particular state what their constituents need and what they find to be the most pressing problem facing them," says ALEC Spokesperson Kaitlyn Buss.
Another controversial law ALEC has pushed is the voter id bill in multiple states. The group caught the attention of Tim Smith, who's in charge of social responsible investing at Walden Asset Management. He says he spoke to Coca-Cola last year along with a trade union in calling for better transparency.
"Alec is out there trying to put legislation into place in states around the country and you've got to look very seriously at what that legislation says and whether you want your company to be associated with it."
FactFinder 12 learned Wichita-based Koch Industries is a member of the ALEC organization. We contacted Koch Industeries, who issued this statement.
“Koch Industries has been a member and supporter of the American Legislative Exchange Council for more than two decades and we plan to continue our involvement. As a non-partisan organization that includes both public and private-sector members and members of both political parties, ALEC's mission aligns closely with many of the principles to which we are committed - economic freedom, limited government and individual liberty.” - Philip Ellender, President, Government & Public Affairs, Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC.
According to Koch Industries, the company has no involvment in Florida's stand your ground legislation. The company says, the only firearms lobbying it has undertaken in Florida was to oppose a bill that would require employers to allow workers to bring firearms onto company property.