You may have heard that in response to a campaign by the progressive group Color of Change, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and now Kraft Foods have all withdrawn their support for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the group that pushes conservative laws at the state level, in part by having corporate lobbyists write model legislation which they then pass to friendly Republican legislators to introduce in their states. It seems that the companies were happy to give ALEC money so long as no one knew about it. But the real question is, why did they support the group in the first place?
Coca-Cola's explanation was that "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." But when you sign on with a group like ALEC, your money is going to advance the entire conservative agenda. That means not just pro-corporate laws, but "Stand Your Ground" laws, voter suppression laws, and laws restricting women's access to abortion. And guess what: women, minorities, and people who don't want to get shot buy soda too!
I somehow doubt that the initial decisions to join were made at the highest level. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd be surprised to hear that the Board of Directors of Coca-Cola took a vote on whether to give a few hundred thousand dollars to ALEC. It was probably some vice-president for policy who decided he was being clever by spreading the corporation's money around to groups who would make sure that the high-fructose corn syrup could continue to flow down the gullets of every true American without the impediment of a nickel of extra taxes. But if you want to play in the arena of public policy, you're going to subject to scrutiny. And it didn't take a boycott or protests outside the corporate offices. All it took was for Color of Change to point out to everyone that these corporations were supporting ALEC, and they went scurrying. There might be a lesson there.