People gathered at the Count Every Vote Rally in Philadelphia at Independence Hall on November 7, 2020. (Photo: Bryan Bedder via Getty Images for MoveOn)

People gathered at the Count Every Vote Rally in Philadelphia at Independence Hall on November 7, 2020. (Photo: Bryan Bedder via Getty Images for MoveOn)

300+ Progressive Groups Urge Corporations to Ditch ALEC for Pushing Voter Suppression Bills

"If corporations really believe in protecting our democracy and the right to vote, they must end their affiliation with ALEC," said one advocate.

A coalition of more than 300 progressive advocacy groups on Monday sent a letter to dozens of corporate executives demanding that companies stop providing financial support to the American Legislative Exchange Council due to its support for the Republican Party's nationwide assault on voting rights.

"These companies cannot hide behind the excuse that they only support ALEC because of their pro-business legislation."
--Cliff Albright, Black Voters Matter

"Faced with public outrage over legislation that creates barriers to voting rights enacted or proposed in more than 47 states, and the bills' disproportionate impact on people of color, young people, and the elderly, hundreds of companies have publicly denounced any discriminatory legislation that makes it harder for people to vote. Perhaps your company is one of them," the progressive groups wrote in their letter (pdf).

"Nonetheless, your participation in ALEC serves to promote and legitimize the group's anti-democratic efforts to create more barriers to voting," added the coalition, which is comprised of dozens of social justice nonprofits and unions, including the AFL-CIO, Public Citizen, and the Center for Popular Democracy, among many more.

In a statement, Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn said that "instead of funding special interest groups that are creating barriers to our freedom to vote, corporations should be joining the movement to deliver the promise of democracy to everyone. That's why we are joining more than 300 organizations to call on all corporations to cut ties with ALEC, which is working behind the scenes to restrict voting rights."

Working in concert with dark money groups like the Heritage Foundation, ALEC, a right-wing organization that drafts corporate-friendly legislation, has played a key role in developing the hundreds of voter suppression bills currently moving through Republican-controlled state legislatures throughout the country, the coalition said.

However, the letter notes, ALEC's "active efforts to restrict the American people's freedom to vote and spread lies about the integrity of our elections to undermine American democracy" did not begin last year.

According to the coalition:

Despite claiming it would stop working on electoral issues in 2012, ALEC has reengaged on highly controversial policies related to elections and redistricting in recent years, perhaps without your company's knowledge. In 2019, ALEC created a secret working group on redistricting, ballot measures, and election law, known as the "ALEC Political Process Working Group."

The group is led in part by Cleta Mitchell, a controversial attorney who has spread disinformation about the results of the 2020 election and served as a legal advisor to former President Trump as he secretly pushed election officials in Georgia to overturn the results of a free and fair election. Another leader of ALEC's secret working group is Arizona state Representative Shawnna Bolick, who recently proposed a bill to allow the state legislature to overturn the results of a presidential election.

ALEC's own CEO, Lisa Nelson, said in February 2020 that ALEC was already working with state legislators on efforts to challenge the 2020 election results and "question the validity of an election." Nelson's comments were made nine months before the election even took place. Then, in June 2020, ALEC held an exclusive call for its members on the topic of mail-in voting featuring the Honest Elections Project, a group that pushes voter restriction laws and which spread disinformation about the integrity of mail-in voting during the 2020 election.

But ALEC's spread of disinformation about voting pre-dates the 2020 election cycle. In 2017, ALEC hosted a panel featuring three members of former President Trump's disbanded and discredited election integrity commission (Hans von Spakowsky, J. Christian Adams, and Christy McCormick), where they made unfounded claims of voter fraud and pushed for legislation to restrict the right to vote.

"Make no mistake," the letter continues. "ALEC and its allies' involvement in spreading disinformation about voting and undermining the integrity of our elections led to the violent insurrection we witnessed on January 6th at the U.S. Capitol."

Meanwhile, dozens of corporate executives with self-serving connections to ALEC--purportedly horrified by and opposed to the January 6th coup attempt by former President Donald Trump and his allies--have publicly vowed to support democracy in the face of GOP-led attacks on the franchise and the rule of law.

And yet, the letter points out to the leaders of major companies, corporate "funding and support of ALEC is being used to pass new Jim Crow-style anti-voter laws at the state level and block federal voting reform from passing in Congress."

Despite companies' pro-democracy pledges, "dozens of corporations--many of whom pledged solidarity with Black workers and consumers just last year--are secretly funding efforts to silence Black voters" through ALEC, said Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice and democracy campaigns at Color of Change.

"We see right through their hypocrisy, and we are issuing this letter to demand that these businesses take a stand for racial justice," Roberts continued. "It's time that corporations put real action behind their promises to promote racial equity and immediately cut ties with ALEC."

The coalition's letter urges corporations--which have donated to ALEC and benefited from the organization's prepackaged, anti-worker bills--to prioritize their stated commitment to democracy over their own narrow economic interests by divesting from ALEC over its ongoing effort to make voting harder, particularly for Democratic-leaning constituencies.

"Your continued financial support of ALEC is an active endorsement of these efforts to create more barriers to the freedom to vote and weaken representation for the American people in government," the groups wrote. "Intended or not, the money your company is contributing to ALEC helps fund this modern Jim Crow effort."

Anheuser-Busch, Bayer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, CenturyLink, Chevron, Coca-Cola, FedEx, Oracle, Pfizer, Raytheon, Salesforce, State Farm, and UPS are among the dozens of corporations that will receive the letter.

"We have repeatedly said that corporations must stop funding the elected officials who sponsor and vote for voter suppression," noted Cliff Albright, executive director and co-founder of Black Voters Matter. "This demand is equally important in regards to conservative groups and think tanks who fuel the Jim Crow-era approach of creating and replicating racist legislation."

"These companies cannot hide behind the excuse that they only support ALEC because of their pro-business legislation," Albright added. "Companies are complicit if they are creating a pro-business environment by supporting anti-democratic organizations and policies."

In her statement, Flynn emphasized that "ALEC has a long history of rigging the rules against everyday Americans while skirting ethics and tax laws."

"If corporations really believe in protecting our democracy and the right to vote," she stressed, "they must end their affiliation with ALEC."

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.