Color of Change Targets ALEC Corporations

Color of Change has launched a campaign encouraging corporations that rely on business from African-Americans to stop funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which promotes voter ID legislation that suppresses the black vote.

"The corporations behind this can't come to us for our dollars 364 days of the year and disenfranchise us on the 365th," said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color of Change, a grassroots organization that aims to strengthen Black America's political voice.

This week, the organization sent a message to its sizable member list highlighting how ALEC model legislation served as a template for the voter ID laws that swept the country in 2011, and how the corporations funding ALEC helped make it happen.

For years, the right wing has been trying to stop Black people, other people of color, young people, and the elderly from voting for partisan gain -- and now some of America's biggest companies are helping them do it.

These companies have helped pass discriminatory voter ID legislation by funding a right wing policy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Voter ID bills linked to ALEC have already passed in seven states, and similar voter ID bills have been introduced in 27 other states.

Supporters of discriminatory voter ID laws claim they want to reduce voter fraud (individuals voting illegally, or voting twice). But such fraud almost never actually occurs, and never in amounts large enough to affect the result of elections. What is clear is that voter ID laws prevent large numbers of eligible voters from casting a ballot, and could disenfranchise up to 5 million people.

ALEC's voter ID laws are undemocratic, unjust and part of a longstanding right wing agenda to weaken the Black vote. Major companies that rely on business from Black folks shouldn't be involved in suppressing our vote. Please join us in demanding that these companies stop funding ALEC.

Starting in 2009, Color of Change led a successful campaign asking corporations to not run ads on [[Glenn Beck|Glenn Beck's] FOX News program, contributing to the demise of the controversial show earlier this year. The organization is pursuing a similar strategy in its campaign against some of the highest-profile ALEC corporate members.

Color of Change is first pursuing behind-the-scenes dialogue with the targeted corporations but not publicly disclosing those targets. According to Robinson, the group is communicating its concerns quietly and hoping the corporations voluntarily disavow ALEC and its voter suppression activities. Meanwhile, Color of Change is collecting signatures on a petition urging corporations to stop funding ALEC, which they hope will demonstrate the depth of support for the campaign.

Robinson says they will only publicly target those corporations that refuse to divest from ALEC after continued negotiations. The holdouts will be subject to a campaign that he says will "place [the corporate] brand next to these discriminatory voter ID laws and their impact."

As CMD has documented, corporate funding is vital to ALEC. While both state legislators and corporations are ALEC members, just about one percent of ALEC's funding comes from legislative dues. Legislators pay only $50 per year for ALEC membership (sometimes with taxpayer dollars), whereas corporations pay between $7,000 and $25,000 to join, and between $2,500 and $10,000 for task force membership. Corporations may also pay tens or hundreds of thousands more in contributions for general support or to sponsor ALEC events, as well as funding "scholarships" for legislators to attend ALEC meetings at fancy resorts. Cutting off the organization's funding could have an impact on ALEC's ability to further its agenda.

The campaign kicks-off just after the NAACP released a report demonstrating what it calls a "coordinated and comprehensive assault" on the right to vote for people of color. "The states with the highest voter turnout among people of color in the 2008 elections and population growth among voters of color," the report notes, "are the states pushing the most restrictive voting laws in the past year." Like Color of Change, the NAACP also singled out ALEC as the source for many of these bills, and brought its case to the United Nations on Saturday.

Here is a link to the petition created by Color of Change.