Overland park-based Sprint Nextel Corp. and General Electric Co. have joined the exodus of companies from the American Legislative Exchange Council following the group’s support of voter-identification and self-defense laws.
Spokesmen for both companies said they are ending their membership with the Washington-based public policy organization, which charged corporations as much as $25,000 and allowed them to help write bills that some lawmakers then tried to enact in their home states.
Western Union Co. also has left ALEC, spokesman Tom Fitzgerald said.
GE, Sprint and Western Union were among those lobbied to quit the group by ColorofChange.org, a New York-based civil rights organization that has counted more than three dozen companies that have ended their ALEC memberships, including General Motors Co. and Walgreen Co.
“These significant developments, coupled with recent withdrawals from ALEC by companies like Walgreens and GM, further prove that everyday people working together to hold corporations accountable can achieve tremendous change,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange.org.
A spokeswoman for GE, Lindsay Lorraine, said the company left ALEC “in connection with our ongoing review of the political and policy organizations we belong to.”
Sprint was solely involved in telecommunications issues with ALEC and participated on a communications task force “to ensure that Sprint’s voice is heard by state lawmakers,” said John Taylor, a spokesman.
Kaitlyn Buss, a spokeswoman for ALEC, said Sprint “simply decided not to renew.”
She has previously decried “this corporate intimidation and bully campaign” to get companies to exit ALEC, saying it was “politics at its worst and should be ignored.”
Those praising the departures included Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a Washington-based advocacy group that has challenged ALEC’s tax-exempt status on the basis that it is a lobbying organization.
“Clearly the light bulb has gone on at General Electric that ALEC’s extreme agenda is not good for business,” said Edgar, a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania.
ALEC has been criticized for advocating the “Stand Your Ground” laws that allow individuals who feel threatened in a public space to fight back rather than retreat.
A state version of the law was cited by authorities in Sanford, Fla, when they didn’t initially arrest George Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense in the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin in February. Zimmerman later was charged with second-degree murder and has pleaded not guilty.
ALEC also has pushed for voter-identification laws, which the U.S. Justice Department has blocked from taking effect in South Carolina and Texas, saying they discriminate against minorities.
Studies by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School said voter-ID laws disproportionately affect groups that tend to vote Democratic, studies show. The center reported that 25 percent of voting-age blacks, 16 percent of voting-age Hispanics and 15 percent of voting-age Americans in households earning less than $35,000 lack the IDs required by the laws.