Trayvon Martin Florida Stand Your Ground Law Backlash Continues, As Johnson & Johnson Dumps ALEC

Johnson & Johnson, a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) corporate "Private Enterprise" board and its Civil Justice and Health and Human Services task forces, has announced that it has decided to "suspend" its ALEC membership.

"We have been in dialogue with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for some time, and while we acknowledge ALEC’s recent decision to focus only on innovation and growth-supporting policies, we have decided to suspend our participation and membership," a Johnson & Johnson spokesperson told CMD.

Johnson & Johnson is an international health care and pharmaceutical company based in New Jersey with revenues of $65 billion in 2011. Its brands and products include: OneTouch glucose testing, Acuvue contacts, Listerine, Aveeno, Neutrogena, Neosporin, RoC, Band-Aid, Tylenol, Splenda, Carefree, and Visine. It also sells prescription drugs, medical devices, and medical supplies including Cordis and Ethicon.

ColorOfChange.org, CMD, and Allies Urged Johnson & Johnson to Dump ALEC. The Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD's) Executive Director and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Justice Department, Lisa Graves, applauded Johnson & Johnson and said its decision "demonstrates that the excellent work of concerned citizens to shine a light on ALEC's extreme agenda is working."

19 corporate members have announced they are cutting ties with ALEC since it became clear that ALEC ratified as a "model" bill the law that may protect Trayvon Martin's killer and other unarmed victims. Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, on which the bill is based, is the subject of a new U.S. Commission on Civil Rights inquiry for racial bias.

ColorOfChange.org, a grassroots organization that aims to strengthen the voice of African Americans, launched radio ads last week targeting African Americans in Chicago, DC, New Brunswick, NJ, and Sanford, FL, with news about Johnson & Johnson's ties to ALEC. ColorOfChange.org Executive Director Rashad Robinson also penned an op-ed for yesterday's New Jersey Star-Ledger saying, "It’s time that major companies based in New Jersey, including Johnson & Johnson, realize that membership in ALEC is bad for their customers and bad for the state."

Today, Robinson said in a press release, "As Americans learn more about ALEC's extreme agenda, companies understand that their brands suffer through association with a group that has weakened our democracy and made it harder to earn a living wage. The ColorOfChange community commends Johnson & Johnson for acting in the best interest of consumers and cutting ties with this shadowy organization." One of Johnson & Johnson's main competitors, Procter & Gamble, announced it was also leaving ALEC last month, leaving consumers with some choices about whether to support a company that continued to underwrite ALEC's agenda or one that had left.

Readers of CMD's ALECexposed.org and PRWatch.org joined members of ColorofChange, CREDO, People for the American Way, PCCC, Common Cause, Progress Now, and SumOfUs, in making numerous phone calls and sending emails to Johnson & Johnson's corporate communications department.

Johnson & Johnson's History with ALEC. As CMD has reported, Johnson & Johnson previously resisted cutting ties with ALEC. Johnson & Johnson's Vice President for State Government Affairs, Don Bohn, represented the company on ALEC's corporate "Private Enterprise" board.

The company was also a "Vice-Chairman" level sponsor of ALEC's 2011 Annual Conference, which in 2010, equated to $25,000. It was also a 2011 sponsor of ALEC's New Orleans convention's "Kids Congress," which provides day care and activities for the children, six months or older, of ALEC legislators and corporate lobbyists.

As a member of ALEC's Civil Justice Task Force, Johnson & Johnson representatives voted behind closed doors on templates to change the laws to limit the rights and remedies of Americans injured or killed by corporations. The Health and Human Services Task Force, on which it also acted as a corporate member, has sought to privatize Medicare, deregulate health insurers, protect negligent doctors, and cut holes in the safety net.

Johnson & Johnson's total financial support to ALEC for its membership, its seat on these task forces and the board, and its various other corporate sponsorship payments is not known.

The Rush to Dump ALEC. Corporations that have publicly cut ties to ALEC in recent weeks include Wal-Mart, Medtronic, Amazon.com, Scantron Corporation, Kaplan Higher Education, Procter & Gamble, YUM! Brands, Blue Cross Blue Shield, American Traffic Solutions, Reed Elsevier, Arizona Public Service, Mars, Wendy's, McDonald's, Intuit, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola. The addition of Johnson & Johnson brings the total to 19. Four non-profits -- Lumina Foundation for Education, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and the Gates Foundation -- and 54 state legislators have also cut ties with ALEC.

Color of Change, along with CMD, Common Cause, People for the American Way, and others are focusing now on asking State Farm and AT&T to cut ties with ALEC.

This article originally appeared on PR Watch.

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Rebekah Wilce

Rebekah Wilce is a farmer with a degree in writing from the University of Arizona. She researches and reports for the Center for Media and Democracy in Wisconsin and milks cows at a local farm. She is the lead writer for CMD's Food Rights Network.

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