Coca-Cola Co. has terminated its relationship with a conservative group seen by some as an incubator for a string of new state voter ID laws and a marketer of laws like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense statute.
The Atlanta-based soft-drink maker said its focus with the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, was on combating “discriminatory” food and beverage taxes, not on issues “that have no direct bearing” on its business.
The decision to “discontinue its membership” came Wednesday, just a few hours after the black online advocacy group ColorofChange began a boycott of the company. Coca-Cola declined to respond to additional questions, including whether it had already paid membership for the year.
Rival PepsiCo, which ColorofChange also asked to end its ALEC membership, said in a Jan. 25 letter that its membership expired. Purchase, N.Y.,-based PepsiCo said it reviews its membership organizations each year and would keep the concerns raised by ColorofChange in mind.
ALEC brings together state legislators, who pay $100 for a two-year membership, and corporations, which pay between $2,500 and $25,000 for an annual membership. The legislators and corporate representatives draft templates of legislation that can be used by lawmakers and lobbyists as models for state or federal legislation.
ALEC spokeswoman Kaitlyn Buss did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. A phone query went to voicemail.
However, Buss previously has said the group did not put a lot of effort or resources into promoting voter identification legislation. She has also said ALEC had no involvement in the “Stand Your Ground” law when Florida enacted it. She has criticized people who turned the “tragedy” of teenager Trayvon Martin’s death into politics.
Several states, including South Carolina, have passed laws requiring voters to show specific ID, toughening voter registration or reducing early voting days. The voting laws have been seen by civil rights and other groups, as well as many Democrats, as an attempt to suppress the votes of African Americans, Latinos, the elderly and students.
The Justice Department has blocked voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina after finding they violate the Voting Rights Act.
Last December, ColorofChange began targeting corporations that financially support ALEC as a campaign against the passage of Voter ID laws.