The End of the Shakedown

Interesting:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world’s No. 1 retailer and the biggest seller of firearms in the United States, is dropping out of a U.S. conservative advocacy group that has been a lightning rod over voting and gun laws.

Wal-Mart said late Wednesday it is suspending membership in the American Legislative Council (ALEC), which the retailer joined in 1993.

ALEC sparked controversy recently because of its involvement in voting laws and in “stand your ground” gun laws, including the one under scrutiny in the Florida killing of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February.

A coalition of liberal advocates targeted the group for its support of the self-defense laws.

ALEC, which serves as a forum for corporations and mostly Republican state lawmakers and lobbyists to discuss model legislation, has been criticized by liberals for promoting laws that require photo identification to vote.

My general feeling on all of this is that most businesses don’t want anything to do with groups like ALEC (KOCH and wingnut industry titans aside). Why the hell would they? They basically pay into it because there is an inherent sense of intimidation, and a fear that if they don’t there will be repercussions. What would you do if a shitload of important legislators across the country come to you with their hand out? It’s basically a legalized protection racket, but instead of whacking people and cutting them up at Satriale’s, they will be subjected to hostile legislation. So when a group like ALEC or Komen are exposed for the political lunatics they are, and it shows the slightest bit of liability to the bottom line for a company like Wal-Mart, they cut and run at the first chance.

41 replies
  1. 1
    Nellcote says:

    ALEC has achieved a lot of what they set out to do anyway.

  2. 2
    David Koch says:

    BREAKING

    Black Metrosexual Adolph Hitler halts voter purge in Florida.

    https://twitter.com/TPM/status/208352329303465984

  3. 3
    Baud says:

    My general feeling on all of this is that most businesses don’t want anything to do with groups like ALEC (KOCH and wingnut industry titans aside). Why the hell would they?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t ALEC sell itself to these companies as an organization that would advocate for business-friendly policies? It’s because ALEC got caught doing controversial non-business lobbying that the companies are not backing out.

  4. 4
    Egg Berry says:

    I’m sure Wal-Mart is still a member of the National Chamber of Commerce, right?

  5. 5
    PeakVT says:

    I think companies start paying into such groups because the initial pitch sounds reasonable – what company is going to reject a plan to cut regulation? Only later do the groups turn into or turn out to be monsters.

  6. 6
    khead says:

    and it shows the slightest bit of liability to the bottom line for a company like Wal-Mart, they cut and run at the first chance

    Until Walmart – or someone, hell, anyone – can come up with the next ALEC….

    Just make sure to change the name from ALEC before the next session of the legislature.

  7. 7
    TK421 says:

    They basically pay into it because there is an inherent sense of intimidation, and a fear that if they don’t there will be repercussions.

    What’s wrong with choosing to do something you don’t like because the other choice might be slightly worse? There’s nothing wrong with such a situation.

  8. 8
    cthulhu says:

    ALEC will be reborn in some other form, obviously. Of course, ACORN survives in a different way as well.

    It’s difficult to make a concept go away…

  9. 9

    They basically pay into it because there is an inherent sense of intimidation, and a fear that if they don’t there will be repercussions. What would you do if a shitload of important legislators across the country come to you with their hand out?

    John,

    My sense is that it’s the other way around. Groups like ALEC are started by companies like Wal-Mart and they’re intimidating legislators (and also bribing them via luxurious vacations at golf resorts where you can bring the wife and kids, transportation provided on the Wal-Mart corporate jet, etc.)

    But I think as groups like Color Of Change bring pressure to bear, it’s become less convenient to be part of these groups. And with that, it’s only a matter of time before some Rick Berman-created front group — also funded by Wal-mart and the like — start attacking them the way ACORN was targeted.

    You know I was shocked last week to see two ginormous billboards in the heart of Times Square attacking the Humane Society of the U.S. I know this is one of Rick Berman’s campaigns, and it’s paid for by Big Food, who have been embarrassed by HSUS videos showing animal cruelty at slaughterhouses.

  10. 10
    Quincy says:

    It’s nice to see ALEC continue to get dumped on, but I’d like to understand a little better what exactly has happened here. I was under the impression that anyone who pays attention to ALEC already believes Wal-Mart is evil. Does ALEC really provide such little return to the non-resource-extraction companies that they’d bail at the first sign of trouble? If so, why were they members in the first place? Or have the efforts of Color of Change and others actually succeeded in raising awareness of ALEC beyond the usual suspects to the point where bottom lines might be threatened? That would be terrific. Also, I wonder if Wal-Mart’s recent bribery scandal contributed to this. Now probably isn’t the best time for it to be affiliated with shadowy government-rigging groups.

  11. 11
    AA+ Bonds says:

    I agree with Baud‘s assessment: ALEC got popularized as pimping other Koch causes, ones that interfered with, for instance, “green” marketing campaigns and strategies, and if ALEC had stayed to pro-business stuff then there would have been no problem between it and its funders

    That’s why they started the ALEC splinter that they proudly announced would not do anything in the way of global warming denial

  12. 12
    Baud says:

    @Baud:

    It’s because ALEC got caught doing controversial non-business lobbying that the companies are not now backing out.

    FTFM

  13. 13
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @Quincy:

    I was under the impression that anyone who pays attention to ALEC already believes Wal-Mart is evil.

    I don’t think Walmart is evil

    They are just a retail business in a late capitalist setting, which is why, for instance, they didn’t budge on “Happy Holidays” even with year after year of million-dollar campaigns against them for it on Fox News

    They have certain messaging, the conformity of which they at least believe contributes to their success, and ALEC was fine doing whatever as long as people weren’t discussing it, and discussing it in ways that ran counter to their messaging

    This turn is a way to buoy their brand and you can see it working, for instance, in this FP post on Balloon Juice where in order to achieve a Democratic anti-ALEC propaganda goal, there is a lot more sympathy given to Walmart than might otherwise appear on a liberal blog, since it makes marketing sense to accept Walmart as a common-sense-filled member of the “team” given this decision (marketing bonus for both parties)

    Don’t take this as a criticism of the FP – it’s the exact opposite – but that’s how this went down from my perspective

  14. 14
    WereBear says:

    @Southern Beale: And yet, support of these national organizations can be difficult, too. In New York, the ASPCA is actually sponsoring a bill making it easier for shelters to kill animals; even when volunteer organizations are offering foster homes.

  15. 15

    I think it is more a case of rats jumping from a sinking ship. In the post Citizens United age, there are other avenues for political persuasion, with less exposure.

  16. 16
    lamh35 says:

    ThinkProgress ‏@thinkprogress

    Florida now has just 7 days to stop the voter purge or face near certain legal action from the Justice Department http://thkpr.gs/KP4aSY

  17. 17
    ShadeTail says:

    My general feeling on all of this is that most businesses don’t want anything to do with groups like ALEC (KOCH and wingnut industry titans aside). Why the hell would they? They basically pay into it because there is an inherent sense of intimidation, and a fear that if they don’t there will be repercussions.

    I’m not so sure of this, Mr. Cole. It seems to me that a group like ALEC would go to big businesses and sell themselves as a legal backdoor to get megacorp-friendly legislation. Why would a business like WalMart *not* support something like that? Now that ALEC has been dragged into the spotlight, they’re naturally jumping ship, but only because they don’t want to be splashed with ALEC’s mud rather than because they don’t believe in its mission.

    Also, I have trouble believing that fear of retribution would goad a behemoth like WalMart into playing ball. Given their influence and resources, they could easily have exposed ALEC to public scrutiny, and they probably would have if they felt threatened. I can’t help but figure that WalMart played ball because they genuinely thought it was a good idea.

  18. 18
    Mouse Tolliver says:

    BTW, registration for the D.C. Komen race is down 40%. Pretty sure that’s the largest drop anywhere.

  19. 19
    bootsy says:

    @Southern Beale: Gotta agree with you over John Cole.

    Of course it would make more sense if corporate CEOs and general counsels (who are the lawyers that the GOP loves) were more interested in helping their bottom line by sales than with oppressing employees by squeezing down costs by destroying labor unions, getting rid of paid leave and the minimum wage. But these guys have been educated in environments that favor their draconian point of view, and then they go to corner offices in the ‘real world’ where that is the only point of view at all.

    Just take the example of Meg Whitman, Romney’s layoff buddy. H-P makes a profit, beating the Street’s expectations. That’s just makes it a good time to fire 27,000 people in her view.

  20. 20
    dr. bloor says:

    The notion of shaking down Walmart strikes me as being akin to shaking down Al Capone.

  21. 21

    @Quincy:

    What’s happened here is an extremely acrimonious shareholder fight brewing in advance of their shareholder meeting. There will be shareholder proposals demanding Wal-mart end its association with groups that disenfranchise voters, and things of that nature. I don’t have the specifics because I don’t own any Wal-Mart stock but this kind of shareholder activism is growing across the board. It started with ExxonMobil a couple years ago when a big block of shareholders led by the Rockefellers very nearly got a big green initiative passed.

    Glibertarians are always saying corporate hegemony is fine because all you need to do is buy stock and become a shareholder in which case your vote counts which is ridiculous on a lot of levels but mostly because shareholder proposals almost always fail. People just don’t pay attention and the ones with the biggest voting blocks are the big investors, anyway. But this is starting to change, perhaps because the media is paying attention now.

    For the first time ever I got a call from a company asking if I’d received my proxy statement and did I plan to vote because they knew I hadn’t voted yet, and also I could vote right now, do I want to approve the board recommendations? Big red flags went up. I said no, let me research it, and sure enough there were a shit ton of shareholder proposals which would have curbed this company’s more heinous practices.

    Most people don’t take the time or are even aware of what’s going on unless it comes to their attention by way of a big advocacy campaign or some such.

  22. 22
    NancyDarling says:

    Now if all the too-dumb-to-write-their-own-laws state legislators would opt out of membership. They are almost all republicans with a scattering of dems thrown in. Annual membership dues for the lege is around fifty bucks each. Corporate memberships run from 7 to 25 thousand dollars yearly. They hold conferences and “scholarships” are given to needy legislators to pay their expenses. This is where they hand out their cookie-cutter laws—many of them designed to gut or roll-back environmental regulations.

  23. 23

    @bootsy:

    Honestly they’re only interested in profits, not how it’s done. Far easier to put the balance sheet in the black by laying off workers and such, then actually increasing sales which requires work, investment, etc. You see this Hick Hanauer talk?

  24. 24

    Also don’t forget Wal-Mart has major egg on its face over that Mexican bribery scandal. They need to make a teensy weensy effort to look like Good Corporate Citizens.

  25. 25
    Jeffro says:

    I think the Komen thing has the bigger corporations looking at exactly what it is they’re getting for their bucks (weighing positive PR vs potential negative PR, and vice versa)…and if they do the right thing for the wrong reasons, it is still the right thing.

  26. 26
    Stuck in the Funhouse says:

    OT

    Speaking of shakedowns, whackjob governor and gooper legislature, had their ears pinned back by a federal judge, on the truly, truly very truly draconian voter suppression law in Florida/ That had pretty much deepsixed third party efforts to register voters in the state.

    Judge Hinkle

    “The short deadline, coupled with substantial penalties for noncompliance, make voter-registration drives a risky business,” Hinkle wrote. “If the goal is to discourage voter-registration drives and thus also to make it harder for new voters to register, the 48-hour deadline may succeed. But if the goal is to further the state’s legitimate interests without unduly burdening the rights of voters and voter registration organizations, 48 hours is a bad choice.”

    Here here, another case of the system working. But my sense is that wingnuts are imposing their scattershot lawfare onto efforts to suppress the vote, in a similar way they do for abortion. Just sling so many unconstitutional laws at the wall, that causes folks a lot of time and money to have quashed for the bullshit they are. Until one slips by prior to an election, and they steal the election. These people are becoming something like legislation insurgents at the state level. And it will continue, until voters send the wingnuts packing.

    Add this to the voter purge being halted, and for now it looks like the system is working to thwart these seditious motherfuckers from destroying democracy.

  27. 27
    David Koch says:

    @TK421:

    What’s wrong with choosing to do something you don’t like because the other choice might be slightly worse?

    Exactly. That, in a nutshell, is why I won’t vote for Tom Barrett in Wisconsin. I won’t vote for the lesser of two evils. Vote Green, Wisconsin, vote Green!

  28. 28
    Mnemosyne says:

    @ShadeTail:

    It seems to me that a group like ALEC would go to big businesses and sell themselves as a legal backdoor to get megacorp-friendly legislation. Why would a business like WalMart not support something like that?

    I think you’re right about this part, but I doubt that anti-abortion “personhood” laws and Stand Your Ground laws are what Wal-Mart (and other corporate sponsors) were thinking of when they tried to buy themselves some megacorp-friendly legislation. They were kind of okay with it as long as it flew under the radar and they got their MC-friendly legislation, too, but the uproar around Florida’s SYG is making it too hot for big corporations with big PR budgets to continue the association.

    As so often happens, Wal-Mart thought they could control the crazy and direct it for their own ends. Turns out, not so much.

  29. 29
    Hill Dweller says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: I’m glad the Judge hammered them on the registration restrictions, but he left a bunch of other onerous stuff(e.g. shortened early voting period) in place.

  30. 30
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @Southern Beale:

    What’s happened here is an extremely acrimonious shareholder fight brewing in advance of their shareholder meeting. There will be shareholder proposals demanding Wal-mart end its association with groups that disenfranchise voters, and things of that nature. I don’t have the specifics because I don’t own any Wal-Mart stock but this kind of shareholder activism is growing across the board. It started with ExxonMobil a couple years ago when a big block of shareholders led by the Rockefellers very nearly got a big green initiative passed.

    An interesting aspect of the messaging angle – thanks for posting this and it’s definitely something I’ll pay more attention to

  31. 31
    brantl says:

    @AA+ Bonds: If you don’t think Wal-Mart is evil, you haven’t paid enough attention to what Wal-Mart does. They hire as many people part-time as they can get away with, to avoid paying any benefits, they shop all production overseas, and then screw them into taking as little money as possible. Scrooge was a piker, compared to these assholes.

  32. 32
    Stuck in the Funhouse says:

    From our BOTH SIDES DO IT!! files.

    Our Lady of the Long Knives drivels the puke funnel. With the weighty question of “Are Romney and Obama Bad at Politics?”

    A snort of two later, of a fine wingnut whine that only Peggy Nooners can bring to bear.

    “Mr. Obama has become actively bad at politics. Here is an example of how bad. Anyone good at politics does not pick a fight with the Catholic Church during a presidential year. Really, you just don’t. Because there’s about 75 million Catholics in America, and the half of them who go to church will get mad. The other half won’t like it either…”

    A black guy gets his self elected president in the country of the Klan, and yuppers, must be bad at politics. And stands up to the Catholic Church because they want to turn the clock back to the dark ages on women’s rights concerning birth control, among other notable panty sniffing – And Obama says no way Jose, and stands up for women, and his female approval numbers go up big time (including from Catholic women). Yuppers, bad at politics, especially now losing the vital Bishop vote, all 450 of them, give or take. As opposed to pleasing more than half of the country’s eligible voters.

    And for the Mittster, Peg pulls the mother of all branedead comparisons.

    “Mr. Romney, too, has had his bad moments. Donald Trump this week is an example. Mr. Trump brings with him the freak-show aspects of the primaries. Mr. Romney has to kick away from that, start a new chapter, begin an appeal to the sane center. Does he think keeping Trump close gains him some kind of right-wing street cred? My goodness, who does he think lives on that street?”

    Let us ponder. Equal bad at politics, is Obama looking after the rights of wimmenfolk, compared to Romney snuggling up to a teevee clown and current Prime Minister of Birtherstan, trying to paint the N-CLANG as not a real American. The sitting president of the united states of America.

    Yikes!! who brought the butterfly net?

  33. 33
    Mike S. says:

    Walmart just got caught in a major multi-year, multi-city political/economic bribery scandal in Mexico… and yet J. Cole thinks Walmart – the nation’s largest gun retailer, and employer of tens of thousands of workers – was ‘intimidated’ into joining a group writing legislation in the US?

    GTFO, how naive can you be?
    Walmart split from ALEC b/c they perceived it to be a PR liability with the potential to diminish sales.

  34. 34
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Mike S.:

    Walmart split from ALEC b/c they perceived it to be a PR liability with the potential to diminish sales.

    If you say so. Anyone that still shops at Walmart after their long history of being the worst fuckers on the planet shouldn’t really care about this ALEC nonsense.

  35. 35
    burnspbesq says:

    @David Koch:

    More details.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/201.....e-its.html

    Yo, Clime Acts! What was that you were saying yesterday about the do-nothing DOJ?

  36. 36
    karen marie says:

    @Baud:

    criticized by liberals for promoting laws that require photo identification to vote.

    Reuters presents ALEC here as if complaints about ALEC are simply policy disagreements.

    I think the problem with ALEC was less the specific legislation (although that was/is a pretty stinking big deal) and more the fact that ALEC was providing, on behalf of its corporate members, prewritten legislation for legislators to pass for the benefit of those corporate members of ALEC.

  37. 37
    gaz says:

    @Mike S.:

    GTFO, how naive can you be?

    I think it’s pretty naive to expect that a corporation is concerned with anything other than their bottom line and both present and future profits.

    Does wal-mart engage in shitty practices, because it’s profitable? Yes of course.

    Do they lobby to continue to be able to engage in said shitty practices? Yes of course.

    What’s naive is expecting them to do anything else. Corporations do not act out of altruism. They are the embodiment of self-interest. They’re in it for the money. That is it. To expect anything else is naive.

    The problem with Wal-Mart, BP, Wall Street, etc. is that we do not regulate them. Wal-Mart is simply playing along. Regulations are there to soften the rough edges of capitalism. It’s not up to businesses themselves to do so. Nor should it be. For starters, you can’t trust them to do so. That’s just how capitalism works. In this case, it’s the job of both government (primarily) and public pressure (in the secondary) to make it legally and/or financially untenable to continue to do so.

    If you want to wag a finger, wag it at our elected officials. They aren’t doing their jobs, and many, if not most have forgotten the role of government. And that, is why we have elections.

  38. 38
    bootsy says:

    @Mike S.: This is a very late response but I would like to echo what you said and reinforce it with the fact that Walmart is in the process of trying to build more in City neighborhoods like DC and LA’s Chinatown. They’ve been facing bad press and protestors, and city councilmen (occasionally) listen to their constituents.

    If they’re seen as racist above everything else, that’s something that it’s hard for the city officials who approved their store construction to sweep under the rug.

  39. 39
    Ivan Ivanovich Renko says:

    @gaz: This right here.

    If corporations are people, my friends, then they are sociopathic people, focused on one thing and one thing only: makin’ money.

    Makin’ money in any way they can.

  40. 40
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @WereBear: My county had an infamous case just last year where the authorities busted up a “no-kill shelter” in the country with over 600 sick and dying cats.

    “No-kill” is cruel and inhumane. Just because YOU don’t see that animal suffering and dying (see: horse slaughter ban in United States) doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

    We are a nation of children who would rather cause another living thing to suffer than face our own (and the universe’s) mortality. (See also: pet “parents” who torture their pets in their last months/weeks with life-prolonging surgeries while the pet, which lacks the capacity to understand why it is suffering, is in increasing pain.)

  41. 41
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @bootsy: ding ding ding

    Walmart ditched ALEC over SYG. They NEED that “urban” market (actually, there are more AAs in the South now than the North, and the rural/suburban South is where Wally World is biggest). It’s not just about getting into big cities, which is defs a goal, it’s about possibly alienating existing customer base.

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