“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Louis Brandeis, former Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court
There has never been any doubt that George Zimmerman pulled the trigger that killed a 17-year-old, unarmed Florida youth named Trayvon Martin. But not much is known about Zimmerman’s accomplice. His name is ALEC, which stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a corporate-financed membership organization for conservative state legislators that, in conjunction with the National Rifle Association (NRA), wrote and promoted the “Stand Your Ground” law which so far has shielded Zimmerman from arrest and prosecution. Stand Your Ground is essentially a “Kill at Will” law which allows a gunman to use deadly force if that person believes he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm. Since the law was passed in Florida in 2005, the “justifiable homicide” rate in that State has jumped 300%. ALEC has used its close relationship with conservative lawmakers in state legislators throughout the country to pass similar legislation in 25 states – and the tragic body count is growing.
It is bad enough that since its founding in 1981, ALEC has been the shadow author of numerous pieces of legislation aimed at boosting corporate power and profits, reducing worker rights, weakening environmental protections, and restricting voter rights. Now, the organization is actively supporting a law which is moving this country back to the lawless days of the Wild West when it was common practice to “Shoot First and Ask Questions Later.” That is not the kind of America we or our children deserve in the 21st century.
That is why last Thursday, I stood with a coalition of civil rights groups and hundreds of outraged citizens at a rally in front of ALEC headquarters in Washington, DC. We came to pull back the curtain so that the world could meet the team of ghost-writers who have written these kill-at-will laws and spread this poison around the nation. We came to spread the disinfecting sunlight of truth on the real force behind these deadly laws and to demand that the organization end its promotion of Stand Your Ground and other similar firearms legislation.
The same team of ghost-writers is poisoning the constitutional right to vote by promoting these despicable voter ID laws throughout the nation. ALEC’s model voter ID legislation, which is being promoted in dozens of states, has the potential to disenfranchise more than five million voters during this all important presidential election year.
Fortunately, the secretive partnership between big business and conservative politicians is coming under increasing scrutiny across the country. In fact, the Center for Media and Democracy has created a website: www.ALECExposed.org, revealing the bills the organization supports, as well as its corporate and political backers.
This should give everyone pause when an inside-the-beltway group can write and promote laws that corrupt the democratic process, give a free pass to criminal behavior and trample on our civil rights. Last week, we marched for justice for Trayvon Martin. But until we get to the bottom of the NRA/ALEC relationship and their motivation for promoting laws that go beyond commercial interests, who knows who ALEC’s next victim will be.
Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League.