Conservative group ALEC losing support over Stand Your Ground

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ALEC, the influential non-profit credited with writing the original template for “Stand Your Ground” laws has lost corporate donors and Republican legislative members in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, a report in The Guardian says.

The Guardian obtained internal memos that were prepared for the August 2013 board meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has produced model legislation on everything from guns to voter ID, with an emphasis on conservative policy ideas like reducing corporate taxes and regulations.

The group has hundreds of members drawn mainly from Republican legislators around the country, and it counts as former members House Speaker John Boehner, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, and Ohio governor John Kasich. ALEC is best known for laying the groundwork for  Florida’s  2005 “Stand Your Ground” law, developed in conjunction with the National Rifle Association, which expanded the so-called “castle doctrine” to provide legal protection to gun owners who use their firearms in self-defense. The law has been replicated in more than 30 other states since it was signed into law by then-Governor Jeb Bush.

“Stand Your Ground” became the object of controversy and protests, including by the Dream Defenders in Florida, despite not being invoked by defense attorneys for George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in July in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. But “Stand Your Ground” altered the jury instructions in Florida for manslaughter and second-degree murder, and it was mentioned by a juror in the case in explaining her vote to acquit.

As printed in The Guardian article:

Alec’s own internal records of its membership states that it has 1,810 state legislators on its membership books – amounting to almost a quarter of all elected representatives at state level across the nation. That support base has declined though over the past two years, from a peak in 2011 of 2,200, underlining the structural problems that the group faces in the wake of the Trayvon Martin outrage.

ALEC has also suffered heavy losses in its private backing from corporate members that have declined from a similar 2011 peak of 280 to 214. Among the documents are ALEC’s own list of 38 companies that have allowed their membership to lapse, including The Home Depot, the over-50s organization AARP, healthcare insurers such as WellPoint and the pharmaceutical company Roche Diagnostics.

The documents show that Alec has struggled to hold on to members from the financial services industry. A note records that “many of these companies failed to renew at Alec due to controversy.”

The group accepts that it has lost members in recent months, but puts it down to normal cyclical pressures. “No one disputes that ALEC lost public and private members during the past several years, but Alec and its members work on issues relevant to the American people and will continue to do so long into the future,” Meierling said.

He specifically wanted to point out to theGrio that ALEC no longer creates and supports “model policies” as it did with “Stand Your Ground” and other highly  conservative initiatives. He said ALEC has “gone back to basics,” focusing on issues its members want to be supported. Regarding a loss of both legislative and corporate support, Meierling said, “Corporations, like people, do not like controversy of any sort. Some of the engagements in the past have indeed been controversial. But what has happened is not necessarily a bad thing. It has forced us to refocus and evolve. What we are doing now is a repositioning for our future growth.”

In April 2012, ALEC saw defections by several major corporate donors as it attracted scrutiny over the role it played in crafting “Stand Your Ground” laws. Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Blue-Cross Blue Shield ended their support for the organization at that time.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport.