October 29, 2013

Coalition applauds Senate examination of ALEC’s role in Stand Your Ground laws

Crossposted from Greenpeace USA

In a coalition letter just mailed to Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Greenpeace partnered with six other organizations to applaud today's Senate Judiciary hearing on Stand Your Ground laws, which complicated the prosecution of George Zimmerman after he murdered unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida last year.

In particular, Greenpeace encourages the Senate's examination of the secretive role played by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC helped disseminate Stand Your Ground laws in states across the country as part of its "model bill" lobbying work on behalf of private sector interests like the National Rifle Association (NRA). Stand Your Ground laws are linked to increased rates of homicide.

See this handy flowchart from the Center for Media and Democracy explaining how the NRA and ALEC pushed Shoot First laws in states across the country.

While ALEC has attempted to distance itself from Stand Your Ground laws, the damage is already done. Lost lives cannot be taken back. ALEC has made no attempt to support any repeal of its Shoot First laws that have protect killers like George Zimmerman. Using a lobbying process that undermines democracy, ALEC has also undermined criminal justice in this country. Despite helping pass model state laws crafted by the NRA and other companies like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, AT&T, and Pfizer, donations to ALEC are tax deductible.

Greenpeace signed the letter to Senator Durbin in cooperation with AFSCME, Progress Now, ColorOfChange, American Federation of Teachers, CREDO Action and the Center for Media and Democracy, whose executive director Lisa Graves submitted testimony for today's hearing. Graves points out how there are currently three separate complaints to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) alleging ALEC has long been engaged in tax fraud in providing its lobbying services to the NRA and its other members.

Senator Durbin has spoken about ALEC before--last year when groups including Greenpeace, Energy Action Coalition and others worked on behalf of 150,000 people asking Duke Energy to dump ALEC for pushing bills that suppress voters, deny climate change and attack clean energy incentives. In the video above, Senator Durbin makes a statement to ALEC member companies like the NRA and Duke, "If you believe in ALEC's agenda as a corporation, then have the decency to stand up to the American people and say 'we embrace this.' If you're embarrassed by it, then have the decency to distance yourself from it."

The NRA has taken no responsibility for its role in the deaths facilitated by ALEC's Shoot First laws, while Duke Energy has attempted to publicly disassociate from ALEC's dirty agenda yet continued to fund ALEC's secretive lobbying operations.

The full text of our letter to Senator Durbin is as follows:

Dear Senator Durbin:

We write to commend you for holding this hearing today on the effects of “model” legislation that has been used to exonerate the use of deadly force in senseless tragedies where shooting victims were pursued and were unarmed.

It is an indisputable fact that for more than six years the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) pushed “Stand Your Ground” legislation to state lawmakers across the country. Thanks to ALEC’s corporate-funded lobbying efforts, more than two dozen states have such laws in effect.

Citizens exercising their freedom of speech expressed outrage over these laws and the role of the corporate-funded ALEC in pushing them, which led ALEC to stop advocating for the deadly and flawed legislation. However, to date, ALEC has not called on states to repeal the damage done. ALEC has also claimed that Stand Your Ground played no role in the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, even though the jury was instructed that Zimmerman had a “right to stand his ground and had no duty to retreat,” under that bill.

For years -- with corporate lobbyists secretly voting with legislators on “model” bills like this one -- ALEC has engaged in a stealthy campaign to dismantle workers rights, privatize public institutions, thwart efforts to address climate change, and prevent juries from holding corporations accountable.

It has done so while claiming to the IRS that it engages in zero lobbying. It has also spent millions on trips for lawmakers while claiming to the IRS that it spends almost nothing on travel for public officials. That is why it is the subject of three pending complaints to the IRS alleging tax fraud.

Accordingly, we reject the claims of ALEC and its boosters that it is inappropriate for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold this hearing or inquire whether the corporate funders of ALEC support the misguided and deeply flawed Stand Your Ground laws. The Senate also has ample grounds inquire into a group that has been accused of tax fraud for secret lobbying and gifts.

We thank this Committee for shining a light on these important matters.

Sincerely,

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Center for Media and Democracy (ALEC Exposed)

ColorOfChange

CREDO Action

Greenpeace

Progress Now