The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation became the latest high profile backer of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council to withdraw financial support after pressure from groups opposed to ALEC’s support of “stand your ground” laws and Voter ID.
Roll Call reports that a foundation spokesperson said it does not plan to make any future grants to the organization. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed more than $375,000 to ALEC in the past two years.
ALEC’s more than three hundred corporate sponsors pay annual membership dues ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to advance their agendas, plus additional fees of $1,500 to $5,000 a year to participate in ALEC’s various task forces, where, according to an ALEC publication, “legislators welcome their private-sector counterparts to the table as equals.”
That’s the very model of a bad public-private partnership and crony capitalism. (More detail by ALEC Exposed.)
So what excuse does the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have? Jessica Pieklo’s article says:
“Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business,” Coke spokeswoman Diana Garza Ciarlante said.
…opposes all efforts — federally and on the state level — to impose discriminatory taxes on food and/or beverages.
Now I don’t like food taxes, either: they’re the very model of regressive taxes that affect the poor more than the rich. But beverage taxes? As in taxes on the sugar water Coca-Cola sells? Those might improve public health and increase state revenue.
So how much has Coke supported ALEC in this?
Ciarlante said the company would not disclose its financial support of ALEC but said it was restricted to yearly dues. She said it had been a member for approximately 10 years. The company had received some phone calls protesting its relationship with ALEC, she said, but declined to comment on the decision beyond the company’s statement.
I wonder how much other support Coke provided, as in for example introductions to power-brokers around Atlanta.
Coke’s rival Pepsi also declined to renew its ALEC membership when it expired at the end of 2011, spokeswoman Heather Gleason said. The company’s 10-year membership focused exclusively on tax issues related to the beverage industry, she said.
And Pepsi probably also didn’t want to talk about lobbying for tax breaks for sugar water while legislatures are cutting education budgets.