In an incredible display of the power of boycotts, it only took 5 hours for ColorofChange to get Coca-Cola to stop supporting ALEC.
Here is how ColorOfChange described the boycott against ALEC’s corporate supporters,
You and more than 85,000 ColorOfChange members have called on corporations to stop supporting the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) because of its role in voter suppression.
We contacted Coca-Cola to make sure they understand that through their membership in ALEC, they are supporting racially-discriminatory voter ID laws that have the potential to disenfranchise over 5 million people in the upcoming elections. They told us they “recognize the importance of voting rights” but claimed that they weren’t responsible for ALEC’s voter ID legislation.
It only took five hours for Coca-Cola to announce that, “The Coca-Cola Company has elected to discontinue its membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business. We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our Company and industry.”
ColorofChange responded to the announcement by applauding Coca-Cola,
We welcome Coca-Cola’s decision to stop supporting the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization which has worked to disenfranchise African Americans, Latinos, students, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. We confirmed with Coca-Cola that they are no longer a member of ALEC and no longer fund the group in any capacity.
We reached out to Coca-Cola last year and have been in dialogue with them since then to convey the concerns of more than 85,000 ColorOfChange members who called on major corporations to stop supporting ALEC. Hundreds of ColorOfChange members began making phone calls to Coca-Cola this morning, and the company listened to their voices. We continue to call on all major corporations to stop supporting voter suppression through ALEC. Our members are prepared to hold accountable companies that continue to participate in ALEC’s attack on voting rights.
The boycott is also targeting of ALEC corporate sponsors including Wal-Mart, which put out a statement today that tried to have it both ways and claim that they didn’t agree with ALEC on everything, but were still financially supporting them. ALEC is funded by right wing billionaires such as the Koch brothers, so an advertiser boycott isn’t likely to drive them out of the legislation writing business, but that isn’t necessarily the point of the boycott.
Advertiser boycotts are also about raising awareness. How many Americans knew before today that the Coke they buy at the vending machine at school or work was helping to fund voter ID laws that will suppress millions of votes? Would people still be willing to drink Coke or shop at Wal-Mart if they knew about ALEC and their activities?
The right is predictably outraged by Coke’s decision, but since Glenn Beck and more recently Rush Limbaugh, corporations have learned to fear boycotts. The Supreme Court may have declared that corporations are people, but those “people” don’t need food, water, or oxygen, but they do need your money to survive. A boycott that takes away consumer dollars threatens a corporation’s very existence.
Even if corporations like Coca-Cola can withstand any financial losses, they can’t handle the bad publicity. Nothing can undo millions of dollars of advertising faster than the negative publicity that a grassroots boycott is capable of generating. Boycotts have the ability to utilize the free market to empower every American consumer to speak out against political agendas that they disagree with.
One of the reasons ALEC has been successful is that it wasn’t until the last few years that the left started to expose them. All of these stealth threats to democracy need to operate out of the public view. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact the advertiser boycott strategy will have on a political organization.
Voter ID laws are being put in place under the guise of preventing voter fraud, but the fraud doesn’t exist. The real intention of voter ID laws is to suppress the vote among constituencies that are likely to support Democrats. Voter ID laws disproportionately impact minorities, the poor, and students. Their purpose is to make the electorate whiter and more conservative. If Republicans can’t win elections straight up, they will reshape the electorate until they have one that favors them. Voter ID laws are un-American and those who care about liberty should use any legal tactics to stop them.
The power of the boycott should never be doubted, and ColorOfChange has given ALEC a whole lot to think about. The very free market that the right supposedly champions has given their opponents the tools needed to combat their unjust agenda.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association