ALEC, as it's known, is a corporate-funded non-profit that writes pro-business and often anti-union draft legislation for state lawmakers to introduce in their legislatures. ALEC has come under fire recently from good-government and civil rights groups for pushing voter identification bills that critics say discriminate against blacks and Hispanics. ALEC foes have also blasted the organization for promoting so-called Stand Your Ground laws like the one at the center of the Trayvon Martin shooting.
Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause, one of the groups in the anti-ALEC coalition, hailed Mars' decision. "Its leaders understand that continued support for ALEC’s advocacy of vigilante justice and assaults on voting and employee rights, public schools, and reasonable environmental regulations is neither good business nor good corporate citizenship," Edgar said in a statement.
In a statement published this week, ALEC executive director Ron Scheberle said his organization wouldn't be cowed by what it called an "intimidation campaign launched by a coalition of extreme liberal activists committed to silencing anyone who disagrees with their agenda." He continued, "Finally, now more than ever, America needs organizations like ALEC to foster the discussion and debate of policy differences in an open, transparent way and not fall back on bullying, intimidation and threats."
McDonald's, it turns out, isn't the only fast-food giant to have cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-funded organization that writes up model bills for thousands of state lawmakers nationwide. Wendy's said on its official Twitter feed on Tuesday night that it, too, had left ALEC. "We decided late 2011 and never renewed this year. It didn't fit our business needs," the company tweeted. Wendy's is currently not a member of ALEC, it stressed.
Bob Bertini, a spokesman for Wendy's, confirmed the move. "The tweet is correct. Wendy's is not a member of ALEC. Last year, we made the decision not to renew for 2012," he wrote in an email to Mother Jones.
Rick Santorum and Foster Friess, the silver-haired, crocodile-hunting, born again financier who made his fortune in mutual funds, go way back. Friess helped raise money for Santorum as early as 1994, when Santorum first ran for US Senate in Pennsylvania. During Santorum's surprisingly successful presidential campaign, Friess poured $1.6 million into a super-PAC called the Red, White, and Blue Fund that was devoted to helping Santorum win the GOP nomination. The money helped keep Santorum competitive in multiple primary states. But after Santorum dropped out of the race on Tuesday, it didn't take long for Friess to jump on the Mitt Romney bandwagon.
"I'm obviously going to be of help [to Romney] in whatever way I can," Friess told Politico's Ken Vogel, who broke the news. Friess continued: "I've got some plans as to how I might be able to be of help. The bottom line is, I'm going to be very supportive and I'll probably have plans to share with you a little later on."
If Friess does decide to go all-in for Romney, he could give a max of $2,500 to Romney's campaign. But there's no limit on what Friess can give to the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future. (An official with Restore Our Future did not respond to a request for comment about reaching out to Friess since Santorum's departure.) Friess could also give to Karl Rove's American Crossroads, a Republican super-PAC that plans to spend up to $300 million blitzing President Obama and supporting Republicans. Or he could donate to Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) non-profit that doesn't disclose its donors and runs a mix of so-called issue advocacy ads and pure political ads. In other words, there's no shortage of Romney-friendly political players eager to take Foster Friess' money.
The fast food giant tells Mother Jones that it recently decided to cut ties with ALEC, the corporate-backed group that drafts pro-free-market legislation for state lawmakers around the country. "While [we] were a member of ALEC in 2011, we evaluate all professional memberships annually and made the business decision not to renew in 2012," Ashlee Yingling, a McDonald's spokeswoman, wrote in an email. Yingling didn't mention any specific campaign or outside pressure as playing a role in the company's decision to leave ALEC.
It's been a rough week or two for the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-backed group that writes model legislation for state legislators on everything from voter ID to privatizing public schools to curbing workers' rights. Since the GOP's massive gains at the state level in the 2010 elections, liberal activists have sought to expose ALEC by publishing its model bills and listing its legislative and corporate members. The pressure is having an effect. Last week, Kraft, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi all announced they would cut ties with ALEC. On Monday, another big name ALEC funder joined the list of defectors: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The foundation, which boasts an endowment of $33.5 billion, had given ALEC $375,000 in the past two years to provide "information to "ALEC-affiliated state legislators on teacher effectiveness and school finance," a spokesman told Roll Call. But no more. The spokesman, Chris Williams, said the Gates Foundation would finish its existing grant but discontinue future ALEC funding.
Here's more from Roll Call:
Last week, Kraft Foods Inc., Coca-Cola Co., and Intuit Inc. each said they would withdraw support. The announcements came after months of behind-the-scenes pressure from another liberal group, Color of Change, an African-American advocacy group.
Color of Change went public today with demands that AT&T Corp., one of ALEC's 21 corporate board members, also sever ties with the organization. Over the past year, the group has reached out to 15 consumer product companies that back ALEC, highlighting the organization’s connections to voter ID laws passed in at least a half-dozen states.
Civil rights activists say the laws disproportionately target minority, student and elderly voters, who tend to vote Democratic, and could bar up to 5 million voters from the polls this fall. In recent weeks, other liberal groups have joined the effort.
Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson said the group is using Internet appeals to pressure companies that have made explicit efforts to build a strong relationship with African-American customers.
Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement that "the dominoes are falling and the curtain is closing for ALEC. People power has worked and this is a major step in the right direction." An ALEC spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.