For much of its 39-year history, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has influenced U.S. politics from the shadows. It wasn’t until a public outcry over how so-called “stand your ground” legislation in Florida is being used to defend the man accused of killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin that ALEC came to widespread attention. Now, the non-profit organization is taking heat for supporting a spate of similar, broad self-defence laws in other states.
ALEC drafts ready-to-legislate bills for conservative-minded lawmakers. It has been criticized for drafting a bill that may have been the basis for Arizona’s divisive law giving police extra powers to search suspected illegal immigrants. Ramped-up voter-ID laws in states like Idaho and Oklahoma have reportedly been inspired by ALEC bills as well.
The group counts nearly 2,000 state legislators as members, and it is supported by a long list of corporations including Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil and AT&T. But the new-found public attention has been quick to make an impact. Last week, Coca-Cola, Kraft and software developer Intuit cut ties with ALEC. The businesses no doubt had their own legislative agenda—Coke said it was focused on beverage taxes—but getting dragged through the mud wasn’t part of it.