GM Joins Walgreen in Splitting With ‘Stand Your Ground’ Group

General Motors Co. (GM) and Walgreen Co. (WAG) are the latest companies to end their membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a public policy organization that championed “Stand Your Ground” gun laws that gained public attention after a Florida killing.

More than two dozen other companies previously said they were stopping their support of ALEC, including Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT)

“We routinely evaluate our support for a variety of organizations,” said Greg Martin, a GM spokesman. “As such, we have decided to discontinue our support and funding of ALEC.”

“We recently informed ALEC that effective immediately Walgreen Co. will not be renewing its membership in their organization,” said James Graham, a company spokesman.

ALEC’s corporate dues of as much as $25,000 a year allow company representatives to help draft bills that the Washington- based group’s members then try to enact in their home states.

The group has come under criticism 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, Florida, when they didn’t initially arrest George Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense in the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin in February. Zimmerman, a community watch volunteer who had a confrontation with Martin, later was charged with second-degree murder and pleaded not guilty.

Voter Identification

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.

Rashad Robinson, executive director of New York-based Colorofchange.org, which has been lobbying companies to quit ALEC, said the moves by GM and Walgreen are “further proof that everyday people working together to hold corporations accountable can achieve tremendous change.”

“More and more companies are getting the message that they cannot in good conscience market products to our communities while handing over customers’ dollars to an organization that suppresses the rights and endangers the safety of people of color,” said Robinson.

‘Corporate Intimidation’

The announcements by Detroit-based GM and Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreen came as the group is holding its annual meeting in Salt Lake City. Kaitlyn Buss, an ALEC spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail.

Earlier this month she decried “this corporate intimidation and bully campaign” to get companies to exit ALEC, saying it was “politics at its worst and should be ignored.” She also said membership was up by 20 percent over last year.

ALEC has disbanded the task force that drafted the “Stand Your Ground” and voter-ID legislation, and said it would focus exclusively on economic issues.

A Pennsylvania voter-ID law is being challenged in state court. State officials have suggested that as much as 9 percent of voters do not have the kind of identification required under the new law. The Justice Department is investigating the statute under the Voting Rights Act.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net.

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