When George Zimmerman was declared innocent this weekend, a lot of people were taken off guard by the verdict. I was infuriated, but I wouldn’t describe myself as surprised. Here’s why: the “Stand Your Ground” laws in states like Florida effectively empower people to use lethal force against anyone they think is scary. (Amazingly enough, racists tend to find unarmed children of other races terrifying.) Not just against people who break into their homes, the way that the far more common “Castle” laws allow, but against anyone they fear might seriously harm them, even in public places.
Wait, what? Whose genius idea was that?
Meet ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a front group for multinational corporations, but it’s far more direct than other such front groups, like the Chamber of Commerce. Corporate representatives and actual legislators sit on “task forces” together, in which corporate representatives propose “model” legislation, vote on it (so the legislators can see which corporations are in favor of what proposed laws), then send the “model” bills off with the legislators…who proceed to propose them in actual legislatures, and vote them into actual law. Yep. The bills are literally written by corporate lobbyists, then put into law, verbatim, by actual lawmakers. And according to ALEC itself, more than one thousand such laws are already on the books in states across the country. Among them is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
ALEC is funded almost exclusively by huge multinational corporations, either directly through grants from ExxonMobil and companies like it, or indirectly through foundations created and funded by multibillionaire CEOs like the Koch brothers. And, unsurprisingly, though ALEC claims to be nonpartisan, only one of over one hundred legislators in leadership roles within ALEC’s task forces is a Democrat. The others are all Republicans. Here is a complete list of politicians who are beholden to ALEC. Look it over. Is one of your legislators among them? If so, vote them out! Support their challengers!
But here’s the more effective way to fight back: boycott the corporations who fund ALEC until they cut all ties. Here is a complete list. Do you work for one of those corporations? Write an angry letter. Do you support them by buying their products? Stop! And, most importantly, go out and generate so much bad PR for them that they have to pull out of ALEC to avoid the public backlash. Spread the word! It makes a difference.
And I’m not just saying that. When the murder of Trayvon Martin, and subsequently the insane “Stand Your Ground” law, gained national attention, a large number of powerful ALEC-funding corporations cut all their ties to the despicable group. Here is a complete list of those corporations. It includes WalMart, McDonalds, and Coca-Cola. Not exactly the most ethical companies, but that’s my point. These corporations didn’t leave ALEC because they opposed its corporate takeover of our former democracy, but because they knew that if they didn’t leave, we would hit them where it hurts: their bottom line. According to the Supreme Court, money is apparently a form of political speech. So what political statement do you want to make with your money?
If you want to protest the Zimmerman verdict, and you oppose “Stand Your Ground” laws, then fight to take out the organization that created them. And if you already don’t support these corporations, and your state and federal representatives are not affiliated with ALEC, then write to those representatives! Call them! Email them! Go to their offices in person, if you can. Demand that they act to repeal ALEC-authored laws like this. Immediately.