Exclusive: McDonald’s Says It Has Dumped ALEC

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagogeek/4455267131/sizes/z/in/photostream/">ChicagoGeek</a>/Flickr

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


This story has been updated.

Add another name to the list of corporations who’ve ditched the American Legislative Exchange Council: McDonald’s.

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.

An ALEC spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

McDonald’s sought to clarify its relationship with ALEC after a coalition of progressive groups with members in all 50 states, including Common Cause and Color of Change, announced plans on Tuesday to target McDonald’s for its ongoing membership in ALEC. Rashad Robinson, Color of Change’s executive director, said groups in the coalition were “flooding” McDonald’s, Johnson & Johnson, and State Farm with phone calls demanding they stop backing ALEC. “Major corporations like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Kraft understand that supporting voter suppression efforts and dangerous ‘Stand Your Ground’ legislation puts their brands at great risk in the black community,” Robinson said. “We hope that McDonald’s, Johnson & Johnson, and State Farm also get that message. Today, our members are flooding these companies with phone calls to demand that they stop supporting ALEC.”

“Clearly, some of these companies—Coke, Pepsi, McDonald’s—realize that it doesn’t make good business sense to be part of ALEC when ALEC has come under increased scrutiny,” said Mary Boyle, Common Cause’s vice president of communications, when told of the company’s departure from the group.

The news of McDonald’s leaving ALEC comes amidst several other high-profile departures by big-name corporations. Last week, Coca-Cola said it had decided to leave ALEC after taking heat from Color of Change and other progressive groups. Soon after, Kraft, Pepsi, and Intuit (which makes Quicken personal finance software) followed suit by ending their memberships with ALEC.

Activists have singled out ALEC’s so-called voter ID bills in their campaign against the 38-year-old organization cofounded by conservative leaders Paul Weyrich and Lou Barnett. Color of Change has slammed voter ID legislation, which claims to crack down on voter fraud, as “discriminatory” against blacks and Hispanics. “No longer is the black vote suppressed through violence, intimidation and literary tests,” Color of Change has said in a statement. “It’s now suppressed through laws that make it burdensome and difficult for many black folks to vote.”

Color of Change launched its broader anti-ALEC campaign last December. But it’s not the only group to take aim at ALEC. As Mother Jones reported, in February occupiers around the country protested ALEC as part of a campaign against corporations’ power in politics. “We are rejecting a society that does not allow us to control our future,” read the website for Shut Down the Corporations, the website for the Occupy movement’s ALEC protests.

UPDATE: The Huffington Post reports that, in a February 29 letter to Color of Change, a McDonald’s official said the company remained a member of ALEC. The letter, which raises questions about McDonald’s claim to have left ALEC, appears to be written by Pat Harris, whose title is global chief diversity officer. We’ve updated the headline of our story to make it clear that it was a McDonald’s spokeswoman who says the company has left ALEC.

More MotherJones reporting on Dark Money

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.